Undiscovered Country, Vol. 2: Unity by Scott Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In my review of the first volume of this series, I talked myself out of my original two-star rating. The more I thought about the worldbuilding, or rather the "worldbuilding," the less I liked it. But one must remember this is a comics-verse, where a great deal of the time ridiculousness is the name of the game. Even more so with this series, which unapologetically tips over the edge into batshit crazy.
At any rate, when I visited my local bookstore on Free Comics Day, I ran across this second volume. I picked it up and looked it over and decided it looked intriguing. The art was better and the characters seemed to be more interesting. And possibly enough time had gone by that I didn't remember how over-the-top gonzo the first volume really was. At any rate, I took a chance on it. It's definitely not in the running for the best comic of the year, as far as I'm concerned, but I will say I was pleasantly surprised. That's not to say the story and world still isn't more or less batshit crazy, but it does appear....how can I put it, more grounded in its craziness? More restrained? Giving the characters a bit of nuance?
In this future alternate history, the US has sealed itself off from the rest of the world, and no news and/or information (and precious few escapees, apparently) have emerged from the country for thirty years. In the age of the internet and globalization, this is of course the huge hurdle one must get over to read the series in the first place. Now I'm quite capable of granting one impossible handwave to a story I like (one must automatically do this with any SF story involving faster-than-light travel), but I will say this is by far the biggest eye-rolling handwave I have ever talked myself into granting. Maybe it's because the immediate problem the characters are trying to solve is the Sky pandemic, which has an 80% mortality rate and which the US claims to have a cure for. On the other side of Covid, that hits you a little differently.
It helps that this volume digs into its crazy bananapants premise and provides at least a few explanations. It's also not trying to throw any and every nutty over-the-top thing at the wall to see what sticks...no talking carnivorous bison, for example (although the jingoistic, sermonizing Destiny Man from the first book still makes an appearance). The characters are more fleshed out and more appealing in this volume, and the art is definitely better. There's also a moral dilemma in this story, as our group winds up in the zone of Unity, one of thirteen "united sovereign territories" the newly isolated US has divided itself into. (If you think that harkens back to the original thirteen colonies, you're right. And once again, the Native American genocide is not mentioned, except for some genuinely offensive shit spouted by the Destiny Man about "what made us feared and obeyed, were our weapons. With the Colt .45 pistol...along with Winchester's rifle and Gatling's cannon, the lands inside our borders were tamed." Yeah, by murdering the Indigenous people who were already there. This is the huge elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.) In Unity, no one suffers...at the cost of being a compliant zombie. Of course, our six characters blow this all to hell. At the end, still on their quest to reach the place in the US that has the cure for Sky, they pass from Unity to the next territory, Possibility.
Despite my lingering reservations, this is a definite improvement from the first volume. Enough so that I will probably check out subsequent books in the series.
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