Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Undiscovered Country has been a massively hyped up comic since it was first teased by the two of them several months ago. The creatives attached are all incredibly popular (with good reason) and the concept of the book is incredibly timely in 2019. This book became so exciting that in the time between its initial announcement and the release of its first issue the comic was optioned for a film by New Republic Pictures, with both Snyder and Soule writing the screenplay. Between the creative team attached to this comic and the premise, Undiscovered Country is a book with a lot of momentum.
The premise of the book is that in 2029, America sealed itself off entirely to the outside world. In a modern version of pure isolationism, this move threw the rest of the world into chaos, causing massive shockwaves from which the world has still not fully recovered. In the ensuing years, alliances formed, wars began, and a plague called the Sky Virus has been ravaging the planet. The world of Undiscovered Country is one of the most interesting parts of the book — Soule and Snyder have discussed the amount of research they did to build a plausible world in this state, and it really shows. And while the outside world is intriguing and enjoyable to read, the real meat and mystery of the world is within the walls of America, years after the Sealing. With monsters, monster trucks, and a Mad Max-style aesthetic, this new America feels alien yet strangely familiar, and both Camuncoli and Wilson make the entire landscape pop.
The characters of the series are all unique and distinctive, although at this point most of that distinction is carried by the art. Dr. Charlotte Graves is the character with the most development at this point, with a segment of the story centered around the circumstances leading her to join this expedition. The rest of the crew is varying levels of defined, with characters like Colonel Bukowski and Charlotte’s brother getting a few lines explaining their backstory, and Dr. Ace Kenyatta and Valentina Sandoval getting an even briefer summary. These characters will clearly be explored further as the story goes on, but beyond Dr. Graves none of them have any reason for readers to be attached as of now. Giuseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini, and Matt Wilson are the main reasons these characters are easy to tell apart — their designs for the characters make sure no pair of them feel too “samey.”
The story of the issue is a fairly standard setup for the plot — a message has come from America for the first time since the Sealing, and an expedition from the outside world has ventured into the mysterious nation. The expedition gets shot down right at the start, and now has to survive in this land while running from the Destiny Man. This is a fairly strong story for a first issue, but unfortunately there are some flaws that keep it from being as compelling as the premise deserves. The exposition is overdone, not allowing the art to tell the story and providing a running commentary that detracts from the experience. An example is the introduction of the group named the “Silent Minority.” This name brings plenty of implications with it, such as parallels to Nixon’s championing of the “Silent Majority” and the existence of minorities within America to this day. Instead, however, the writers opt to have their leader explain the reason for the name in painful detail: “Silent because we can’t make much noise or the Destiny Man will find us, and minority because there ain’t many of us left.” This isn’t the only instance of telling instead of showing in the issue; the first look we get of the Destiny Man’s army is followed by one of the characters explaining all the details of the art and repeatedly asking “Did you see?” This doesn’t ruin the book by any means, but it really detracts from the experience.
Camuncoli, Orlandini, and Wilson are a masterful combination on art and colors for this book. Beyond the character designs mentioned previously, the art team does an excellent job telling the story within their art — characters’ facial expressions and body language tell just as much of story as the dialogue does. Even with some of the overwriting that occurs within the issue, the art is still able to tell its own story. Equally impressive is Camuncoli’s depiction of the new world of America, which really drives home the impact of their isolation and evolution. Every page is gorgeous even when they may be horrifying, and the final page’s effect is incredibly powerful because of the strength of this series’ artistic vision.
Undiscovered Country #1 is an interesting first issue to a series with a lot of promise. There’s still a lot left to be done, but as a beginning it serves its purpose well. There are a few flaws but on the whole the issue is a strong beginning, and leaves a lot of potential for the series to grow into something larger.