I want to start by saying that I am not American. That doesn’t make me ignorant of American history, though, — I along with most everybody else with Disney+ around the world will be watching Hamilton, a musical that raps about the US Constitution. American culture and way of life is evoked often in science fiction, often depicting the future as a dark visualization of what the country could become. That is apparent in the latest Image title Undiscovered Country, which hits shelves in collected trade paperback July 8 and aims to shed some light on history through a post-apocalyptic future.
The year is 2029, and the United States have sealed itself off from the rest of the world, which feels right on cue due to the current administration. As the world is plagued by the Sky Virus and wars have occurred, there are two new empires: Alliance Euro-Afrique and the Pan-Asian Prosperity Zone. Upon receiving a video message that serves as an invite to the isolated America, a team is sent to seek a cure for the global pandemic and breaches the U.S. borders, only to find themselves in a struggle to survive this strange and deadly lost continent.
Now, Undiscovered Country‘s first issue was published back in November, before the outbreak of our own ongoing global pandemic, but the series couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Based on the supplemental material, in which writers Scott Snyder and Charles Soule – both of whom have written Swamp Thing for DC separately during the New 52 – discuss their collaboration that leads to the heavy research in conceiving this future, which has plenty in common with post-apocalyptic fiction like Mad Max.
There is certainly an ongoing discussion about what America is, through the numerous characters, from journalists, historians and even an old man who looks like and even refers to himself as Uncle Sam. That said, this discussion just feels more like window-dressing, because the story that Snyder and Soule are ultimately telling is an adventure that is heavy on exposition, but never delivers a clear message on what it’s trying to say. On a micro level, there is a slew of characters we get to know through flashbacks that set up their involvement in the mission, but never do we emotionally engage with them — not even the complicated relationship of Dr Lottie Graves and her brother Daniel, which should be the heart of the story.
If the creators dial back on the heavy-handedness and just embrace the post-apocalyptic adventuring that Snyder previously did with The Wake, this comic could’ve been a lot fun, especially considering the great artwork. With layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli, finishes by Daniele Orlandini (issues #1-4) and Leonardo Marcello Grassi (#5-6), and coloring by Matt Wilson, Undiscovered Country presents a stunning Mad Max-y America, where its inhabitants are bandaged up, riding on mutated creatures, some of which are huge enough to pull moving vehicles. In a book that juggles perhaps too many characters, at least we know who is who, as each player looks distinct from one another.
Undiscovered Country struggles with its own identity, and whatever message it’s trying to say about America and its current situation just gets lost.
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