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Comics You Should Know: Undiscovered Country, Vol. 1

This week saw the release of the first digest of Undiscovered Country, a creator owned work that is put together by writers Scott Snyder and Charles Soule and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini, Leonardo Marcello Grassi, colorist Matt Wilson and letterer Crank!.

Just the talent line-up alone would make most comic fans intrigued. Snyder has been largely creating DC related comics until recently, and Charles Soule has been doing similar work for Marvel. Most would consider them some of the best writers in superhero comics today, so to know that they have chosen to partner together on a story is fascinating.

This first volume of the series has recently released, collecting the first 6 issues focused on this idea born of science fiction, political intrigue, and the world that is burning itself up. Started in winter of 2019, it feels almost too heavy to read right now in the world where we are all still working our way through the COVID-19 crisis.

But, in the story, some years ago, the United States closed itself off from the rest of the world, putting up literal physical defenses but also some electronic ones. And since that time, the world has descended (or ascended depending on your perspective) into two empires.

But the whole world is facing an illness that comes from the Sky, that we are introduced to via a doctor character, Charlotte Graves, who is recruited for a mission: someone or something inside the USA has invited a part in, offering a cure for the disease.

From there, over the course of the first digest, flashbacks, and good storytelling, the reader meets the rest of the party: a combat veteran war hero, an expert on America from before it was sealed up, Charlotte’s mercenary brother, a woman journalist with a AI (?) sensing drone, and a diplomat from each empire.

It is a really well done study in setting the table up with both characters and plot pieces that could compel a series forward. Without spoiling anything, you can clearly sense what was the end of each issue in a non-digest form, as the cliffhangers are so obvious but also so very well done. Two of the issues would have me freaking out if I had to wait to find out what happens next!

So, what is compelling about Undiscovered Country? The storytelling feels like it is going to be an epic tale. Immediate comparisons when the first issue came out were to a comic that has done okay for itself over the years: The Walking Dead. With Charlotte taking the central role initially, it just feels like a long spanning story could come out of it.

To me, as a reader, it also evoked some of the elements of the TV show Lost and the comic Y, The Last Man. That sense of being drawn into a story but not necessarily understanding everything at the early stages is thick in this digest in the best way possible.

And Snyder and Soule are great storytellers and are getting to explore a bit more than capes and cowls. They draw upon things like Mad Max: Fury Road for some of the setting and characters, as well as establishing some mysteries that may or may not pay off quickly in the comics lifespan.

Similar to some of the letter columns in the comic Lazarus by Greg Rucka, they have a letter to the readers in the back of the digest (that was from the first issue evidently) where they talk about how the project came together and how they got started.

All of that said, Undiscovered Country also feels like it may be a heavy look at the American story. What would happen if the country closed itself off? What happens if the best parts of the American dream survive? That could be an uplifting story. But the truth is, at least in this first collection, there is a deep examination into what may be horribly true: what if only the worst parts of America survive into this isolation?

Either way, I am anxiously awaiting the next trade now and suspect this gem of a series may be one of the best in comics over the next few years. (It should be noted the series has already been purchased by New Republic Pictures; it should be interesting to see how that impacts the story and the comics moving forward.)

You can get the first trade here or, better yet, ask for it at your FLCS.

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