Land of the Freaks, Home of the Strange

Undiscovered Country #1
Writers: Scott Snyder & Charles Soule
Pencils/Cover artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Daniele Orlandini
Colors: Matt Wilson
Letters: Crank!
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I picked this new title up for two main reasons: I’ve enjoyed the writing of Scott Snyder in recent years, and the comic seemed to offer the promise of some interesting political discourse in the context of genre fiction. The latter proved to be true, but unfortunately, it was only in small measure. Otherwise, what we get is what reads like a fairly typical post-apocalyptic thriller. If I had to sum the book up for someone who hadn’t read it, I’d say it was like Jurassic Park meets Mad Max — at least, that’s what it seems like so far. Undiscovered Country offers a nice little diversion, but at this early juncture, it feels a little too familiar. I was looking for a stronger commentary on the state of America at the moment, but thus far, all Snyder and Soule deliver is a fleeting one lacking in any depth or nuance.

In the not-too distant future, America is a mystery. Decades ago, it sealed itself off from the rest of the world, and in those years, new global, socio-political alliances have formed. But everyone is threatened by a devastating “sky virus” that promises to end life on Earth as we know it. But a mysterious message emerges from the United States, promising a cure and a partnership. A task force is assembled to make the journey, but what this group of soldiers, scientists and diplomats find is not at all what they expected.

Guiseppe Camuncoli has quietly risen to a place of prominence in mainstream comic art, having for one of the cornerstones of the recent successes Marvel has had with its Spider-Man line. His style is appealing, and here, it looks a bit like a cross between the styles of Jim Lee and Leinil Francis Yu. I found a couple of key scenes — the opening crash landing and the revelation of the twisted creatures populating the post-apocalyptic landscape — a bit difficult to discern. I also found that the linework had something of a loose look, as though Daniele Orlandini’s inks didn’t bring sufficient definition to the pencils at times.

The founding premise of the book — that American isolationism is bad for the country and the rest of the world — is pretty clear, and that’s what drew me to the book. But the representation of it here is incredibly heavy-handed, and the initial exploration of it is sadly superficial. I wanted more of this alt-history, and to be fair, it’s likely that there’s much more to be revealed as the series progresses. But it’s clear the writers are focusing on developing an action-oriented genre story, with an emphasis on myth rather than a deconstruction of potentially harmful policy.

In the course of the story, the protagonists encounter an ally in the desolate wildlands in which they’re trapped, and while the writers telegraphed who he is and what he’s meant to represent, I was a little taken aback when the big reveal was made. And I was disappointed. Subtlety isn’t the name of the game in Undiscovered Country, and given the potential for a relevant discourse in this adventure story, I’m not exactly loving the bombastic approach the creators are taking here. What could have been a challenging, intellectual story in the vein of a creator-owned Jonathan Hickman book has turned out to be more in line with loud and obvious blockbuster fare one might get from James Cameron or Michael Bay. 5/10

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Land of the Freaks, Home of the Strange