November 20, 2022

Review: Undiscovered Country, Vol. 3: Possibility

Undiscovered Country, Vol. 3: Possibility Undiscovered Country, Vol. 3: Possibility by Scott Snyder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I've been continuing with this comic despite the batshit craziness of some (ok, a lot) of its worldbuilding. (Reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2.) I guess that means the overall story is compelling enough to continue? That is probably true, but this is the first volume where I feel the writers deliberately pulled back from examining their story's premise in a way that would have added a lot more meaning and heft.

Nearly forty years in the future, when a group of people are trying to find their way out of a future America that has cut itself off from the rest of the world (never mind the global community/economy/information exchange is such that this couldn't happen; this is only one of the handwaves you have to look past to go with this), said group has reached the third of thirteen balkanized American zones: Possibility. As described in the comic:

Once populated by all the creatives responsible for the stories and myths and music and styles and culture that made America what it was to the world. The dream.

Out of all the zones, Possibility was tasked with making new creations that would redefine this land so that when the doors re-opened, the American dream would be renewed.

To pass through this zone, our group has to create a brand-new American masterpiece: a story, painting, sculpture, artwork--something that grapples with the myth/dream of America. Although one character immediately throws out a poem that works perfectly well for me:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
America's awful, and fuck you too.

I mean, this sums up the country in a lot of ways, past and present. But, y'know, if they had used that we wouldn't have a story.

The person who ends up being tasked to do this is one of the characters of color: Ace Zenyatta. He considers how to tell the American story and comes up with this:

Yes, I've been thinking about the quintessential American story. Immigration, assimilation, race, class...all part of it. But one story has captivated Americans since the beginning. Three words.

Rags to riches.

So many American stories follow that model. Someone comes from nothing and ends up on top of the world.

And I thought, really? The two white writers are having the black guy say this? Without mentioning America's history of slavery, genocide and Jim Crow, and how that plays into restricting who can actually achieve this rags-to-riches fantasy?

This would have been a very rich vein to tap if the writers had had the balls to really grapple with it. (Also, bringing in a writer of color might have helped.) As it is, they come close in a couple of places, but they end up pulling their punches and ducking away. This pretty much spoiled the impact of this volume for me.

Look, I'm sure many people read this comic just for its overall batshittery. It is pretty over-the-top compared to others. But it's disappointing that they come up with a storyline that is supposed to explore the mythology and dream of America--and they don't actually do it.

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