“I did enjoy parts of this volume, though I think more time could’ve been afforded to investigate the possibilities of such a promising zone.”
Written by: Scott Snyder & Charles Soule
Layouts by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by: Leonardo Marcello Grassi
Coloured by: Matt Wilson
Lettered by: Crank!
Edited by: Will Dennis
Assistant Edited by: Tyler Jennes
Published by: Image Comics
It might seem well coordinated, but in reality my decision to catch-up on the first two volumes of Undiscovered Country recently isn’t actually related to the release of this third volume. Nevertheless, since it’s here, I felt like I may as well continue, since, as I’ve mentioned previously I’m intrigued as to where the series is heading.
Possibility is both the title of this volume of Undiscovered Country and the zone our group of protagonists find themselves in. Zone Possibility is the home to all the creatives that were in the United States following the Sealing. They all came together here to work on “new creations that would redefine this land so that when the doors re-opened, the American Dream would be renewed”. These creatives were aided in their work by Anything Machines, mysterious devices that could build anything the zone’s inhabitants dreamed of; largely it seems they’ve been used to create animatronic representations of some relatively well known US characters and some groups that just represent a genre prominent within the US (such as a bunch of black and white gangsters and femme fatale types purely referred to as ‘Noirs’).
Initially, I thought the idea of a zone populated by classic US characters was interesting and with the potential to take a little something from books like Sandman or Fables. I liked the idea of dividing the characters up into islands, like ‘The Mix’ and ‘Loresville’, to show their different origins and the artforms that had birthed them. However, it’s beginning to feel like there’s a one volume, six issues, hard time limit for each zone. In this case, a portion of the United States defined by art felt as though it could have lasted longer than it was allowed to, equally I’m sure there’s zones to come that might need less than six issues to be really shown off.
To survive this new zone our protagonists will need to create ‘an American Masterpiece’, ideally recruiting the help of the locals and using one of the Anything Engines, to achieve their goal and move on to the next zone in the spiral.
In the last volume we learnt that the Graves’ parents had attempted to send a second message to Charlotte and that if she’d received it the Sky Virus’ outbreak could’ve been avoided. This has had a lasting effect on Charlotte, she blames herself for not trusting her brother…but with the message never reaching her, it is understandable that she would be sceptical. Although this revelation is touched upon in the opening issue of this volume, the Graves siblings take more of a backseat in this volume, which is a nice change as I think the pair do suffer from their most defining characteristics being that they’re ‘the main characters’.
For me this volume’s greatest strength is the time dedicated to learn more about Valentina and Ace. It follows up well on their time investigating Zone Unity and how the two have grown closer, all the while flashbacks inform us of where they’ve come from and how they’ve ended up as the people they are today. In particular, I like the detail that Ace’s former employers, The Lafayette Group, who were dedicated to theorising about what was taking place inside of the US, were editing their output to focus on the positives. Ace had to use a pseudonym to argue against the work he was releasing through them.
There’s some nice character development for both Janet and Chang, a pair that were initially at each other’s throats but are gradually revealed to show a mutual respect, if not being friends outright. We also see that Chang has maintained the abilities he demonstrated back in Zone Unity, which shows in a very literal way how the time in the United States is changing the members of the group. We also see the return of a character very much changed by the last zone.
Undiscovered Country is a series that relishes bombshell revelations, so naturally we have one towards the end of this volume. Though it’s something that was definitely hinted towards earlier in the series, I was enjoying that it had really been addressed head on, and I was hoping we’d go a little bit further before any reveals were made. I’m trying my best to not give anything away, but you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you read it.
Perhaps my main complaint with this volume is that its basis in art created within the United States does present the creative team the opportunity to essentially tell you what they’ve decided are the most important parts of US creations. As someone who’s from the UK, there’s a fair few characters knocking about that don’t really get much mention outside of US media, which makes some appearances feel altogether uninspiring. I appreciate this ties back to criticisms I’ve raised in my previous review, at some points the series is overwhelmingly dependent on the United States, which sometimes feels awkward given the fact that the protagonists are from outside of the States and their own cultural identity frequently gets ignored in the sheer importance of the location they’re now in.
Giuseppe Camuncoli and Leonardo Marcello Grassi artwork remains on par with the previous two volumes. There’s some good facial expressions and character designs are always interesting. Each zone presents a new opportunity to introduce characters with entirely different inspirations; Possibility definitely presents the opportunity for some unique designs by drawing on literature, musicians and comic book characters for inspiration and Camuncoli rises to the challenge of incorporating as much of this inspiration as possible. However, there are moments with some strange perspective choices, which can make characters feel warped.
This is very much Ace and Valentina’s book, from the early introduction of Valentina’s favourite comic book heroes to Ace’s knowledge of US culture being central to them moving on to the next zone, they’re immediately the focus. In that sense, I did enjoy parts of this volume, though I think more time could’ve been afforded to investigate the possibilities of such a promising zone.