I’m really getting tired of this book. Every issue promises something poignant and relevant to the current state of the country, but at no point have I felt like it delivered. At this point, I’m just really frustrated. “But Vishal,” you ask, “aren’t you choosing to review every issue? At some point, isn’t your lack of enjoyment in this series your own fault?” And it is! But I’ve committed to talking about this book every month, and with Uncle Sam as my witness, I’m going to carry this task out.
There’s nothing more emblematic of the problems this book than the very first page of this issue. The Destiny Man, this villain built up to be this massive threat to life, liberty, and ideology, rambles and waxes poetic about how America was better off in the olden days. He’s not using bigoted dogwhistles here, though — he’s specifically talking about the spirit of the Revolution era, and the immortal words of General John Stark: “Live Free or Die.”
The problem here is the problem with everything about this book: nothing’s actually being said. The Destiny Man pontificates for a while without ever saying anything, and it doesn’t feel like the writers themselves realize that. There’s this weird treatment of everything he says as something “deep” and philosophical, but at no point does it feel like there’s ever anything interesting being said. I came into this book expecting something more ambitious and with something to say about the current state of the nation and the attitudes within it, but it honestly feels like a generic dystopian story that they claim is in America. For all the research Snyder and Soule put into this book, it ultimately just feels like it has no interest in being about anything.
Now, while the core premise of the book does still feel poorly thought out, there are plenty of details that don’t. The plotting and development for each of the characters are starting to hit their strides, and the book finally has a sense of momentum that it felt like was missing from previous issues. The book doesn’t feel like it’s saying anything, but it’s moving, which is as much as I can ask for here. At the same time, the final page is framed in a way that feels like it’s supposed to paint Uncle Sam as a scarier, less welcoming figure, and it’s complete with a callback to… the first page of the issue. It ends on Uncle Sam saying “Live Free or Die.” Even when I’m getting into the internal story of the book, separate from my expectations of its message, it feels like the disappointment it causes just has to remind me it exists. I want to like this comic, I swear! It’s just doing its best to prevent that from happening.
I feel like I’m being too mean about this comic, so I have to say, without any caveats that Giuseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini, Leonardo Marcello Grassi, and Matt Wilson are still absolutely phenomenal on every page of this comic. There isn’t a panel that doesn’t have something going for it visually, and the mood that the colors set is really well developed. While the Destiny Man’s words are underwhelming and vapid, his design is imposing and the way the artists are able to genuinely evoke a mixture of fear and awe whenever he’s on panel is incredible. The entire art team just puts out stunning work on a consistent basis and are consistently the best part of this book.
I’m going to stick with this book. For how I dump on it, Snyder and Soule do a good enough job on a story about a group of people from the real world landing in a Mad Max-esque landscape trying to find a cure to a plague ailing the rest of the world. The worldbuilding and character building are done competently, and as I said before, the art is gorgeous. I just really wish the creators felt like they had anything worthwhile to say with this book – it’s the perfect environment for some real commentary, and it just feels pointless and shallow. I expect better from both of the writers on this book.
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