I really want to love this series. I really, really do. The premise is fantastic, the creative team is spectacular, and the book looks incredible. But for some reason, it’s just not clicking.
There are really fun parts of this book, don’t get me wrong. The world-building of the new America, what little of it exists in this issue, is great. The idea that states of the union have turned into different states of mind is wacky and fun, and the Spiral path to reach the center of the nation shows a lot of promise. The main scene in which the Destiny Man appears cements him as a fearsome figure, and Camuncoli’s design and depiction of him within the comic makes him immediately memorable. The threat of the Wall is also made incredibly apparent, between members of the Silent Minority mentioning it fearfully before a full splash page depicting its horrors. When Camuncoli, Orlandini, and Wilson get to let loose upon this rendition of America, the entire book is at its peak.
Unfortunately, while Camuncoli, Orlandini, and Wilson do an incredible job on the entire book, the writing ends up feeling lackluster. A major problem is that a significant portion of the book doesn’t seem to know what its own merits are, and instead focuses on details and flashbacks that only serve to muddle and dilute the good parts. This second issue suffers from this problem even more than the first – the book isn’t bad at all, but there’s an increasing amount of focus on what has so far been fairly boring backstory. While the main characters of the book obviously do need something in their background to make them stand out, the focus on the mystery of Charlotte and Danny’s childhoods and relationship to Sam ends up slowing down the entire book and making it feel less interesting. The promise to explore an America that feels alien yet familiar is left unfulfilled as the series instead spends time fleshing out the relationship between two characters who we still have not had much reason to feel attached to. This extends even further this issue, as the ending relies pretty much entirely on the reader’s attachment to the characters and their relationships, and I was just left cold. While I’m not one to say that story and plot should take precedence over character development, this series’ story has far and away been its highlight and the character work leaves the entire thing underwhelming.
Another problem with the writing is the dialogue. There are a lot of points where silent panels or no dialogue would be an incredibly effective tool, but instead the book resorts to dialogue where characters describe exactly how they feel. It’s overly expository and frustrating to read, because it just feels overstuffed with unnecessary words. Beyond this, though, there are several instances where the dialogue just does not work. I’m not sure what effect Snyder and Soule intended to have with lines like “I’m what you think I am, Lottie. I’ve done bad things, made bad deals. But not as bad or as often as I could have.” It just comes out really awkward, in a way that no one actually speaks. While this can be done successfully, in this case it doesn’t even come across as deliberate, and just feels like they needed another pass at the dialogue.
Despite all these complaints, the book isn’t terrible — it still has a fantastic premise and incredible world-building, from the writing and art fronts. What’s frustrating about it is the sense that this potential is being wasted. Snyder and Soule are great writers, and their voices on this book should be a lot stronger than they’ve been so far. This still a decent book, but the disparity between what it is and what it should be has only gotten wider since #1.