Connect with us
The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country
Marvel Comics

Reviews

‘The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country’ has real-world tragedy in its DNA

Stan Lee’s ‘World Outside Your Window’, but a whole different window.

By the end of The Undiscovered Country, the Earth is irreparably altered, its very land distorted. The country of Sian-Cong, a fictional neighbor of Vietnam and Laos introduced in the 1960s and summarily forgotten, has been devastated, its people cast out from their homes as their city infrastructure and rural networks are devastated.

This is, to the circumstantially gathered team of superheroes, as near a ‘win’ as they can muster.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

The circumstances for these events are suitably cosmic, wrapped up in cosmic personifications of planets, grim intergalactic predators, and reality-warping forces. In effect, our heroes are woefully, almost laughably, out of their league.

The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country
Not pictured: human tragedy.
Marvel Comics

But, then, when have the heroes of Marvel Comics been up for the task of stemming international trauma? The existence of The Invaders—let alone a magnetic man victim—couldn’t halt the Holocaust; The Avengers had no effect in 1960s Vietnam, nor did the narratively-associated boots on the ground. Increasing global tragedies abound, but these are not—cannot—be the traffic of the four-color crowd.

The Marvels isn’t inherently about these concerns, but the complicated historical narrative wirework of the series lends itself to this speculation. After all, what was Sian-Cong in 1968’s Avengers #18 but cartoonish vilification of the Asian communist threat to American Readers? A spandex-inhabitable Vietnam Conflict?

The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country
Pictured: A Nation in Conflict
Marvel Comics

Further, writer Kurt Busiek spends the length of The Marvels dipping deep into Marvel history, seeding the unseen history of Sian-Cong with super-interference. The Red Guard has been here, as have pre-Fantastic Four Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. The Shi’ar Empire, Wakandan forces, Soviet-controlled Winter Soldier, and a young Nick Fury are all getting hooks on this resource-rich, UN-ignored country. The book is so concerned with Marvel miscellanea that our human POV character, Kevin Schumer, is a comic-book-collecting repository for neglected superhuman tech (at the climax, Kevin ends the conflict with one of the Porcupine’s discarded quills).

The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country
I like to imagine that the issue of ‘Saga of Crystar‘ Storm’s been looking for has caught her eye.
Marvel Comics

In a key sequence, Kevin and the assembled heroes find themselves, curiously, in a comic shop; the comic shop is, of course, standing in the blasted landscape of a now-dead world, as all the best comic shops are. The shelves are stocked with real-world Marvel publications. One can see the covers of actual issues of Man-Thing, Dazzler, Machine Man, and Chamber of Chills. Even the New Universe and Strikeforce: Morituri get nods, meaning this comic shop is aware of the company’s whole publishing schedule, and not just those relating to Earth-616.

If you follow Busiek on Twitter—or any of the myriad “comics out this week in 197X” accounts—you’ll likely have seen him comment about having owned some of these books. This is the Marvel comic shop of Busiek’s youth.

This is, then, a Marvel grappling with its Red Scare past, a Marvel who, not anticipating the longevity of their product, anchored major and timeless characters in conflicts that would become untimely. A Marvel, a country, a childhood reeling from horrific and wasteful loss.

Sian-Cong, having borrowed its politics and history from its neighbors, becomes a country suffering post-war repercussions. By illustrating this–by acknowledging this–the Marvel Universe tries to reconcile its own unstable history (not to mention its own bad acting).

The Undiscovered Country cannot make these concerns implicit, of course. The Undiscovered Country features a planetary consciousness, a multi-dimensional motorcycle, and a woman who dresses like a cat. Nonetheless, The Undiscovered Country comes from a very real place. It’s a book that implies its ramifications, its purpose, and leaves the heroes helpless to stem the tide of history.

The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country
‘The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country’ has real-world tragedy in its DNA
The Marvels Vol. 2: The Undiscovered Country
Allusions to the real-world conflicts hard-baked into Marvel history allow The Undiscovered History to acknowledge the troubles superheroes can't punch.
Reader Rating1 Vote
9
Yildiray Cinar beautifully captures both humanity and the uncanny.
Continues the long work of unifying Marvel's disparate parts.
Tells a masterful story without showing its hand.
Works at a scale so large that the actions of our heroes feel meaningless.
Loses sight of characters in the chaos.
8.5
Great
Buy Now

Join the AIPT Patreon

Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:

  • ❌ Remove all ads on the website
  • 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
  • 📗 Access to our monthly book club
  • 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
  • 💥 And more!
Sign up today
Comments

In Case You Missed It

Psychic predictions: stunning research results revealed Psychic predictions: stunning research results revealed

Psychic predictions: stunning research results revealed

Pop Culture

sundance film festival sundance film festival

[Sundance ’23] ‘Infinity Pool’ review: Grotesquely beautiful and hedonistic ride

Movie Reviews

X-Men Monday #189 - Benjamin Percy Talks 'X-Force', 'Wolverine', and 'Ghost Rider/Wolverine: Weapons of Vengeance' X-Men Monday #189 - Benjamin Percy Talks 'X-Force', 'Wolverine', and 'Ghost Rider/Wolverine: Weapons of Vengeance'

X-Men Monday #189 – Benjamin Percy Talks ‘X-Force’, ‘Wolverine’, and ‘Ghost Rider/Wolverine: Weapons of Vengeance’

Comic Books

Marvel Preview: Scarlet Witch #2 Marvel Preview: Scarlet Witch #2

Marvel Preview: Scarlet Witch #2

Comic Books

Connect
Newsletter Signup