Undiscovered Country #1 – Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, Writers; Giuseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini, Artists; Matt Wilson, Colorist; Crank!, Letterer
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: A co-written comic by two of comics’ most well-known creator-owned talents isn’t something that comes along too often, especially two talents whose creator-owned work is as disparate as Scott Snyder and Charles Soule. Both have acclaimed work-for-hire books on their resume, but while Scott Snyder’s creator-owned work trends towards the haunting and horrific, Soule’s books often fit more into the twisty and surreal. Before picking up Undiscovered Country #1, I couldn’t really imagine what a fusion of their writing style would be—and after finishing it, I’m still figuring it out. This is one of the most wildly ambitious, fascinating, and confusing first issues I’ve read in a while, and it has all the markings of the next great Image Comics water-cooler books.
The concept is immediately intriguing—it takes place in a world where the United States sealed itself off from the rest of the nations thirty years ago, defending its borders with a series of walls and air-defense systems and leaving the rest of the world to its own devices. Now the rest of the world is divided into two competing empires—a union of Europe and Africa and a far-east empire. The two groups are constantly ping-ponging between cold and hot war, but now both are more occupied with a devastating plague that comes from the sky and kills people en-masse. A select group of doctors still try to help the victims, but supplies are dwindling. It’s into this crisis that a mysterious government team is put together. It seems there’s been a communication from America—the first in over thirty years—from a man named Samuel Elgin, who resembles Uncle Sam and claims to have a cure for the plague.
Undiscovered Country #1 begins in a similar way to other Image books, putting the team together to venture into unknown territory. Fans of Kirkman and De Felice’s Oblivion Song will definitely notice some similarities here, but where this title distinguishes itself is with its deeper political implications. This is ultimately a story about isolation and what happens to a nation when it no longer opens itself to outside influences. I’m not sure if there was any influence from the Japanese Sakoku era, but it seems to fit the concept as much or better than the current border debate. But if you came into this book expecting political debates, there’ll be a lot of surprises along the way. After the team gets shot down in American territory, the book takes a wild and crazy turn into unfamiliar and often startling territory that leaves you with more questions than you started with. Exactly how I want to feel after an Image #1.
Giuseppe Camuncoli, who has done work for both DC and Marvel, gets his big creator-owned debut with Undiscovered Country #1, and Snyder and Soule give him a challenging script to work off that requires him to shift genres several times and draw everything from crowded crisis zones to wide-open wilderness. The book is largely told in double-paged spreads, which enhances the epic feel of the story. Without spoiling too much, the last act of the book has a map in it that’s likely to get lots of people talking and could spin into stories that would sustain this series for years. It’s maybe a bit too ambitious for a first issue, sending you ping-ponging from one twist to another over its double-sized length (for a standard $3.99!), but I far prefer that over the alternative. Undiscovered Country #1 is a roller coaster, and I highly encourage readers to get on board.
Undiscovered Country #1 was provided for advanced review by Image Comics and the creative team.