REVIEW: ‘Undiscovered Country,’ Issue #9

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Undiscovered Country #9

Undiscovered Country #9 is an Image-published comic written by Charles Soule and Scott Snyder. The art is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The colourist is Matt Wilson with Crank on letters. The group of adventurers, stuck in this dystopian version of America, found themselves in Unity City, the metropolis within this region. This city is full of technological mastery, with computers and laboratories and holograms being key aspects of the culture. The team is introduced to the creepy but friendly leader Dr. Jain who is incredibly welcoming to the newcomers, going so far as to provide Charlotte and Marcus with a present. She leads the siblings to an out-of-place home. Stood at the door are their mother and father, looking exactly as they did 30 years ago.

This issue follows straight on from that climax as the twins react to the sight before them. A combination of their mother, father, and Dr. Jain explains that their parents are compiled from memories and data taken years before. The pair are welcomed inside the house where a large conversation is had. Elsewhere, the two negotiators have a meeting with Dr. Jain while Ace is granted access to the mainframe, taking Valentina on a road trip around the city. And the Destiny Man, breaking through from the Destiny region, encounters the defense mechanisms that Unity has to offer.

This chapter of the series is another exposition laden part, but the story doesn’t get bogged down on one particular plotline. The issue is separated as is the party, splitting the comic into four areas: the Graves, Janet and Chang, Ace and Valentina, and the Destiny Man. This grants each group to move various aspects of the narrative forward. There is more of the country’s history, most importantly the breakdown of communication between the 13 sectors. The world that Soule and Snyder have created is so fascinating that the reader is desperate to find out more about what happened after the Sealing.

While there is a lot of focus on the past in Undiscovered Country #9, the present maintains the creepiness. Destiny had a lot of primal, intense fear that stemmed from the monsters and freakish nature of its citizens. But Unity’s emphasis on technology-infused perfection seems to hum with an unsettling energy. The final sequence was expected in its concept, but not in how it was executed. It fantastically sets up the tenth issue and perhaps more action. There are several more twists and revelations that will leave the reader begging to know the truth.

 

The dialogue and characters are intrinsically linked, illustrated best inside the Graves’ residence. Marcus and Charlotte possess powerful differences but can also overlap, much like real siblings. Their reaction to the appearance of their parents, not seen for decades, is polarised due to their respective personalities. Marcus is wracked with surprise, filled with questions. Charlotte initially is able to detach herself from the situation, committed to the mission that is much more crucial. However, the holographic figures soon have both of them asking important questions, hinting at just how much both of them long for more insight from their parents.

Every word that comes from the characters feels unique to them, spinning the exposition into personal, emotional moments. The story creates plot twists from these conversations, which pack as much of a punch as the battles and action scenes.

It was also very gratifying to see Ace be given more to do in this issue. He is the most at home within this state, being a whiz kid. He is granted access to creating objects out of the material that nearly everything in this region is made from. It was interesting to see him given control for the first time, and that youthful energy that radiated from him was very welcome.

The linework by the artists remains exquisite. Camuncoli and Grassi are very effective at making the pristine architecture and details of Unity City unnerving. The straight lines and nodes that cover much of the materials are similar to lines on a motherboard. This constantly reminds the readers that the heroes are practically inside a machine, one at the beck and call of Dr. Jain. This is made even more unsettling when parts of Jain’s flesh contorts and twists to create objects to give to Ace. This is deeply unnerving, as any potential threat could come from anywhere.

Dr. Jain is another superb character design from Camuncoli. The lines on her regal gown are diagonal and stand out against the straight ones of her surroundings. In Camuncoli’s design notes at the back of the issue, reference is made to Angela Bassett’s costumes in Black Panther, and that influence is clearly visible in the headdress. The nature of the gown gives Dr. Jain the appearance of a spiritual or religious leader, an interesting idea considering how uniform things appear in part of the Spiral.  The bottom of her costume merges into the ground and tentacles writhe out of her on occasion. This is intensely creepy and possibly highlights just how linked she is to the city.

The detail that is bestowed upon the pages continues to be jaw-dropping. There are several close-ups of the characters, and you can see individual affectations to faces. Features such as each individual hair of Marcus’s stubble and Valentina’s faint tattoos are small, but they are huge when it comes to impacting the identity of each person in the comic. 

Wilson’s colours are fascinating with the region of Unity, as the vast majority of it is either white or cool greys with blues to imply shadows. There is an absence of colour in Undiscovered Country #9. When objects are created, such as when Ace forms a vehicle, the blemishless white means that everything is a mixture of creepy and amusing. The result is that the shades on the outsiders stand out in stunning fashion, such as the glow of the Destiny Man’s antlers. It is a testament to the brilliance of Wilson that they are able to say just as much with no colour as they are with a whole palette’s worth. With a different colour artist or none at all, the atmosphere of the series could be vastly different.

Crank’s letters are important as this is a dialogue-heavy issue. The text is easy to read and follow. The Destiny Man is granted a custom word balloon, a black background with a red outline, and it contributes greatly to conveying his sinister tone. 

Undiscovered Country #9 continues a lot of what is exceptional about the series: tapping into the plentiful history before the events of the comic, powerful characters and dialogue that we have been hooked on since the start, and wonderful art. Keeping the Destiny Man as an unknown threat is a great decision as both the readers and characters have barely scratched the surface of what he can do. Unity has given a taste of when it can be friendly and when it can be dangerous, and the creative team is evidently building up for more. 

Undiscovered Country #9 is available now wherever comics are sold.

Undiscovered Country #9
4

TL;DR

Undiscovered Country #9 continues a lot of what is exceptional about the series: tapping into the plentiful history before the events of the comic, powerful characters and dialogue that we have been hooked on since the start, and wonderful art.