REVIEW: ‘Undiscovered Country’, Issue #17

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Undiscovered Country #17 is an adventure horror comic published by Image Comics. The series is jointly written by Scott Snyder and Charles Soule. The art is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The colourist is Matt Wilson and the letters are by Crank! 

Our adventurers have been in the Possibility Zone, the latest chapter of their journey through this bastardised version of America. This is a land that flourished and worshipped American creativity and folklore, using technological Anything Engines to bring imagination to life. They found themselves attacked by figures from legends and stories. They discovered the One-Man Band, a machine amalgamated from different instruments and creations. It has an Anything Engine, and demands Ace make it a song. If he doesn’t, they all die. But outside, the Crossroads Devil has them surrounded…

In this issue, the heroes have enemies attacking from all sides. The One-Man Band isn’t exactly friendly, threatening Ace, Valentina with violence if they can’t come up with a new song. But outside is an armada of legendary but ships dreamed up by the minds of romantics but now corrupted and turned into warships. As the Crossroads Devil lands on the island, the group escape the tendrils of their current enemy to face a new one. But he doesn’t want to fight, not yet. Instead, he offers the team a deal…

Veering towards the climax of the third arc, the opening of the issue reflects the chaos that has surrounded the story in this zone. There is a panicked tone as the characters are in danger from multiple sides. Inside is this tendrilled, childlike monster that has Ace’s friends ensnared. But outside is a bombarding brigade of vessels, and the Devil himself. But the pace is slowed right down for the second half of Undiscovered Country #17. That is an aspect of the Soule and Snyder’s writing that should be admired. In a frantic, messy world such as this, it can be easy for the momentum of it to get too much and not know how to stop. But in this comic, the scene can shift to a long discussion. This is still a very tense section as it is more of a negotiation than a conversation, but it fits the intellectual nature of the characters better. 

The writers also ensure that every aspect of the plot is steeped the metaphor of the region. Legend, folklore and creativity is the soul of Possibility, and that informs every decision and action. This issue features the 17th unexpected twist of the series and implies an action-packed follow-up.

The primary character of this half of the arc is Ace, the whiz-kid historian who has been fascinated with America since he was a child. Shifting each character to be the hero for a part of the series highlights the superb storytelling of these elite writers. Ace’s knowledge and ingenuity makes him a fascinating figure inside this comic. He knows more about how America used to be than anyone, a constant driving force of his personality. He is such an endearing character to follow and seeing his growth is rewarding to the reader. In addition, the budding friendship and perhaps something deeper with Valentina is sweet and well-written. The concept of them both being writers and kindred spirits may have been missed until it is explicitly told to us, causing a satisfying “oh yeah!” reaction.

Camuncoli and Grassi routinely provide magnificent worldbuilding within this series, and Undiscovered Country #17 is another splendid showcase. From the snippets at the back of every issue, it is clear that Camuncoli has a vital role in so much of what Undiscovered Country is about. The character, the ships, the armour make this world a unique experience to read. Grassi’s finishing is crucial when adding the important details to such intricate panels. One of the glaring factors about the latest issues of Undiscovered is that the passage of time is starting to show on characters’ faces. Marcus and Ace are both sporting large amounts of facial hair, massively increased than when they crash-landed at the start of the Spiral. This denotes progression and evolution, tiny details that add to the bigger picture.

As alluded to already, the designs of the enemies in this zone are fantastic. Each ship and individual is something different, remnants of past stories. The front of the Titanic sticks out of the water, always partially sunken. Then there are glimpses of the Louisiana, an all-black pirate ship, a submarine. The people are recreations of literary icons or historical figures. Each unit in this comic is unique. As the latest of the “bosses” of each zone, the Crossroads Devil is terrifying and intriguing. Styled like a traditional blues singer, his true face is hidden in shadow, aside from a nasty grin.

The colours are stunning. For much of the time, the shades that Wilson uses are faint and soft. Blues fill much of the panels as nighttime draws in, but it also makes up costumes. This means that when there are bright colours it is startling to see. The more brutal and nerve-wracking the situation, the tones increase in heat. There is a great mix of red and blue in the first confrontation that distils into a nice pink. And then when the bombardment starts the landscape is discovered in an orange glow.

The lettering is brilliant. Crank! makes the word balloons dynamic without endangering the reader’s ability to clearly follow the dialogue.

Undiscovered Country #17 is threatening to become a part of American legend. Each issue brings with it something new. Soule and Snyder haven’t just created a bonkers world where nothing makes sense. There is an intelligence to every creative decision that ties into something crucial about United States’ history. It is equal parts a deconstruction and celebration of the nation, whilst also being undeniable fun. The creators take their time building each arc up, establishing the rules of the zone and the twisted denizens that reside in it. And then it finds ways to break those rules and unleash chaos in a huge confrontation. And another is just on the horizon.

Undiscovered Country #17 is available now wherever comic books are sold.


Undiscovered Country #17
5

TL;DR

Undiscovered Country #17 is threatening to become a part of American legend. Each issue brings with it something new. Soule and Snyder haven’t just created a bonkers world where nothing makes sense. There is an intelligence to every creative decision that ties into something crucial about United States’ history.