Memetic issues 1-3, BOOM!Studios, 2014
Writer: by James Tynion IV
Artist: Eryk Donovan
I grew up with rotary dial phones that were soon replaced with push button faces. Next came the portable, brick-sized cell phones you could carry on a purse strap. Fast forward to this day and age, and the cell phone and tablet are now basically pocket-sized computers that help run our lives and keep us connected in a zillion ways through texts, messaging, websites and apps. I have always been a bit of a gadget nut, and I love to see what those crazy kids come up with next, but sometimes it can be overwhelming with all the über-connectedness and social media. It seems that you need to check in to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and any other social media outlet du jour frequently to stay up to date, in the know, and valid. It is a job unto itself, and some take it very seriously. What if these very same outlets were the harbingers of an apocalyptic event? What if you had access to an image literally everywhere you looked, and what if that image wheedled its way into your brain to ultimately self-destruct? This is the premise of Memetic, a 3 part graphic novel that will make you think twice about the power of modern communication.
Aaron Sumner is college student who is having boy troubles. He is on the verge of breaking up with his boyfriend Ryan when a meme of a happy sloth, the “Good Times Sloth”, becomes viral in a matter of minutes. After seeing this benign, cutesy image the viewer is overcome with a sense of euphoria and well-being. Unfortunately, the meme is lost on Aaron because he has ocular and hearing impairments that prevents him from getting the full effect of the picture. His friends, indeed everyone in town, is talking about the image, and Aaron begins to feel uneasy about the fervour. He isn’t the only one. Retired Colonel Marcus Shaw is worried by the lightning fast euphoria and frenzy associated with the phenomenon, and calls on his former intelligence colleague Barbara Xiang to look into it since he suffers from macular degeneration and has very little sight left. The euphoria takes a sinister turn when 12 hours after seeing the image, the viewer goes berserk, tearing anyone at arm’s length limb from limb. What follows is a dark, cautionary tale about an image that ends the world in just 3 days.
Creator and writer James Tynion IV brings us a scary take on how things could end literally in the blink of an eye. He uses some great, non-traditional characters to tell his modern tale of doom, and the story travels with the same speed as you would imagine the meme to reach millions; fast and unforgiving to anyone that sees it. He points out how chilling it is to be at the mercy of relentless information, how a shared experience may unify in the worst way possible, and how being an outsider could both save you and put you in doom’s way at the same time. This literal representation of what a meme is, how it spreads, mutates and has the potential to be a thing of destruction, does a great job scaring the crap out of this reader.
Eryk Donovan’s frenetic illustrations create a real sense of chaos and destruction, in fact, just flipping through the pages will leave you unsettled even before you start reading the story. Don’t skip the last pages of the 3 volumes where you’ll find mock Facebook and Tumblr pages that provide info on each character, and the last issue has a great section where Tynion and Donovan interview each other.
Being connected in cyberspace is a given in this age of technological advancement, but if you have ever questioned its immediacy and effects on society at large, Memetic will certainly give you a horror, sci-fi take on a familiar internet and social occurrence and maybe get us to shut off the phone, laptop or tablet…but just for a couple of hours.