Undiscovered Country #1
Written by Scott Snyder and Charles Soule
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini and Matt Wilson
Lettering by Crank!
Published by Image Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Image Comics delivers a cinematic but densely paced new creator-owned series in Undiscovered Country #1. Conceived by the wordy, but clever writing team of Scott Snyder and Charles Soule, this debut delivers a deceptively simple premise, but one that has large-scale ripple effects for the world around said concept.
They suppose what if the United States, one day in the near-future, suddenly cut itself off from the rest of the world? Standing as a silent, self-contained biome for more than 30 years, the USA has suddenly opened its gates to visitors from an outside world on the brink of collapse. Filled with widescreen panels riddled with lengthy dialogue balloons, Undiscovered Country #1 is just plain big. It has big ideas and big, broadly sketched characters populating the expansive artwork of Giuseppe Camuncoli and Daniele Orlandini, made whole by the scorching colors of Matt Wilson.
But the problem is, it might just be too big for an opening issue.Though the core idea is very simple, the worldbuilding Snyder and Soule engage in around that idea requires quite a lot of exposition. While Snyder and Soule delight in detailing the sealing of America or the potentially world-ending threat of the deadly Sky Virus, characters like epidemiologist Charlotte Graves still feel a little thinly-sketched underneath all the lengthy exposition. (To say nothing of those talky scenes tying Camuncoli’s hands, as his page layouts start off sweeping and get increasingly cramped under the weight of numerous panels and balloons.) Granted, this is still the first issue, but while we know plenty about the geopolitics of Undiscovered Country, as Graves and company venture to the Abandoned States of America in search for a cure, the underlying traits of the characters navigating this dangerous new frontier still feel unexplored.
Yet that might be missing the general point, as the tone of the book shifts dramatically once the expedition takes its first rocky steps on the American continent. It’s here that Camuncoli and Wilson are really able to flex, indulging a sort of Tom Clancy-Meets-Mad Max kind of energy. Beset almost instantly by the hordes of a ghoulish marauder known as the Destiny Man, leading an army of classic, weaponized cars and horribly mutated animals. These scenes allow the art team to really cut loose with sweeping crowd shots and unsettling vistas ripped straight from Norman Rockwell’s nightmares, but they also slice through the thick exposition of the flashback scenes. It’s the equivalent of getting dessert after a plateful of vegetables - only instead of ice cream, you’re getting maniacs riding harpoon-gun Cadillacs and flesh-eating bison.
Ambitious, densely presented, and gorgeously rendered, Undiscovered Country #1 really goes big. It comes to shelves with a big cast, big ideas, and expansive, deeply designed artwork. But you really have to commit to the long-term potential of this series to get anything from it. As a single issue of comics, it is surely too dense for a casual reader, at times reading more like a sprawling novel than tightly paced comic. But for someone looking for the start of a real-deal epic, one that already has far-reaching plans in place for future arcs and settings, Undiscovered Country #1 is the start of a wild, wooly journey into alternative history.