REVIEW: ‘Undiscovered Country,’ Issue #14

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Undiscovered Country #14 - But Why Tho

Undiscovered Country #14 is published by Image Comics. Written by both Charles Soule and Scott Snyder. The art is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Colours by Matt Wilson and the letterer is Clayton Cowles.

A mixed group of outsiders has found themselves in America, 30 years after the country sealed itself off from the rest of the world. What was initially designed to be a quick journey to find the cure for the deadly Sky Virus has left them stuck in a changing country. The USA is now split into multiple territories, with their own ecosystems, rules, and threats. Escaping from the technological dystopia of Unity, the group finds itself in Possibility. This is an oceanic region with small islands littering the seas. This area is based around American creativity, such as poetry, movies, and culture. Travelling on a pirate ship with this region’s version of Uncle Sam, the team was attacked by noir monsters. In the fight, Valentina found herself thrown overboard…

Valentina awakes on an island inhabited by comic book characters, including her favourite, Captain Flag. Believing herself to be safe, these figures welcome her onto the island. But she soon realises not all is as it seems, and she is in grave danger. On the ship, the rest of the group learn more about the origins of this region and what powers it. Discovering Valentina is missing, the team set off to her rescue prepared for a fight. And before any of the outsiders can consider leaving Possibility, Unity demands they create a piece of American fiction. 

The plot of this issue has a brilliant balance of exposition and the current story. This has been consistent throughout the series. The backstory of Possibility is revealed in this issue as are the rules regarding the region, but Soule and Snyder included a superb action scene to liven the comic up again. Yet again, the detail put into this world is jaw-dropping. The benefit of having two fantastic writers is that the readers are gifted with double the creativity. There is a real sense of adventure in Undiscovered Country #14. Helped by the swashbuckling pirate ship. 

Choosing American superheroes as one of the key aspects of this realm of creativity is a fantastic decision. It celebrates the presence that superhero comics have had on the world whilst also providing an opportunity for an awesome fight in the second half of this comic. As always, there is glorious chaos inside this comic. There may not be a cliffhanger, but there is a clear destination for the group to head to next, and excitement is woven into the DNA of this comic.

This issue is one of the best of the series in regards to character development. More of Valentina’s backstory is revealed in huge depth. Nearly every part of her life has been influenced by Captain Flag and the comic book heroes she adored reading. The extent of just how much creates a powerful sub-plot within the comic. The writers explore Valentina’s past and present and connect them to the wider plot in stunning fashion. Even if Valentina’s backstory continues in the following issue, much of her journey feels complete and self-contained inside Undiscovered Country #14, ending with a sublime superhero moment.

Valentina is smart, always thinking on her feet. An endearing aspect of the characters within Undiscovered Country is how they adapt to the situation. They learn the rules of that territory then figure out how to bend them to suit them. With many of these characters not being natural fighters, this is what keeps them alive.

Another of the characters that shine in Undiscovered Country #14 is Chang. He still possesses abilities that were granted to him when Unity healed him. He can now create weapons from his hands and form a suit of armour around himself. This allows him to join Marcus as one of the battle-ready figures of the team. What prevents him from doing so is his own cowardice and selfishness. He has been an abrasive figure throughout the series, and now the team has had enough. A personality like this is crucial in a story as cracking the group atmosphere grants the other voices their own power.

There is a small moment within this comic that actually represents something larger. There is this requirement that lingers during the book: someone must create an American masterpiece. As the protagonists talk, they mention their hobbies. Marcus can play the guitar, Angela loves fashion. What is evident from not just this exchange, but the beautifully crafted backstory for Valentina, is how full Soule and Snyder have made each and every one of the six main cast members. 

The art is superb. There may be superheroes within this issue, but they belong in the world of Undiscovered Country, so they have to match its madness. Camuncoli has designed several characters with his own spin on pastiches and homages to classic eras of comics. Pulp stories, golden age heroes, sci-fi robots, all are represented fantastically. But each one is run-down and grim, abandoned by anyone who once adored them. The robots have holes in and the humans look like reanimated corpses. This is very fitting for the setting of the comic.

The inside of Sam’s pirate ship is a terrific location. It is crammed with small details and references key elements of America’s culture, or the “soft power” that Ace has alluded to since the start of this arc. 

Camuncoli and Grassi also provide some epic hero shots for the actual heroes as they prepare for a fight. Chang’s suit still bears the style of Unity. Each territory has had a distinct art style even though the artists have remained the same. But when an object or person from this sector travels into another, that style lingers. This is a very cool feature that may go unnoticed by some viewers. But the best new costume is reserved for another character, and it’s a truly triumphant moment. 

The colours are again remarkable. Wilson has to adjust palettes for each arc, and every single one is stunning. There are a lot of beautiful purples and pinks in this region, underneath the ever-changing sky and above the light blue waves. Wilson also incredibly suggests different textures on the various costumes the heroes on the island are made up of. The smooth shine of Captain Flag’s red visor contrasts nicely with the dulled metal of the robots. There is just as much detail in the colours as there are in the character development and line art. 

The lettering is very well done as always. Cowles word balloons are easy to read and the font is exciting. The inclusion of SFX is often understated, which is a word not used with much of this loud, manic comic.

Undiscovered Country #14 is an incredible adventure. This issue seems to be teeming with content as multiple tales are told within one giant story. There is the history and worldbuilding about the fascinating territory of Possibility. There is an interesting backstory of Valentina, and there is also the larger team’s mission to rescue her. Not to mention her ordeal on the island. Valentina’s arc within this one comic is so powerful and complete that a new reader could just read this issue and discover as much about her as long-standing fans of the series would in the previous 13. Whilst the characters must create an American masterpiece before they leave Possibility, the creators have made their own with this series.

Undiscovered Country #14 is available where comics are sold.

Undiscovered Country #14
5

TL;DR

Undiscovered Country #14 is an incredible adventure. This issue seems to be teeming with content as multiple tales are told within one giant story. There is the history and worldbuilding about the fascinating territory of Possibility.