If you don’t know what a meme is and you’re reading this review, I don’t know what to tell you, because memes are what drive a lot of the social traffic on the internet these days. You know that funny cat video you just have to see, or that picture with funny block text everyone is sharing? That’s a meme. Now imagine those addictive little GIFs and pictures being a very dangerous thing to view. What if they could take over your mind? Is the internet already doing that, and more importantly, is this comic good?
Memetic #1 (BOOM! Studios)
This is a story about an internet meme that is incredibly dangerous, but when you view it it delivers euphoric feelings to your brain. Problem is, a few hours later…bad things happen. A weaponized meme is a scary concept and this comic does a good job showing how our addictive nature can make one unstoppable. The story opens with a college aged boy named Ryan who, fortunately for him, is colorblind and deaf. At 7:04 a.m. a picture of a sloth giving the thumbs up hits reddit, and within minutes it blows up. It’s a simple image that doesn’t look any different than any other random picture on the internet, but it has powers to make you feel good. So good that you want to share it with everyone and before you know it, everyone is obsessed with the thing. Eventually your eyes bleed and you go on a rampage trying to kill. I guess the Amish will be fine, but what about the rest of us?
Writer James Tynion IV has a compelling concept on his hands here, made more interesting by the use of those who are blind and deaf to figure out who is behind the meme. Ryan isn’t the most interesting of characters—really, he’s merely the everyman that we can all relate to—but his characterization of Marcus is top notch. This blind older man knows something is up and the story follows him as well as he tries to get help in discovering where this meme came from.
To be honest a lot of the drive of this series, the drive to turn the pages, comes from not knowing what the picture will do, the mass obsession it imbues on people and the mystery of who or what would unleash such a thing on the human race. The characters are more cogs to follow along, at least at this juncture, and don’t add a lot to the larger picture. It’s also very easy to relate to the story, as I’m sure everyone knows someone, or is someone, who has obsessed over a video game, video or random internet thing.
The coolest aspect to the writing is a moment Marcus has with a woman who knows all about memes, or in this case “memetic warfare.” The idea is ludicrous and reasonable all in the same, because it gets to the root of humanity. We pass along knowledge because it’s helpful to the species, but now that our basic needs are met, stupid cat pictures are the things we pass on these days. If you give it some thought this is potentially the scariest thing outside of a super virus we could ever face, which gives this comic a recommendation on the story alone.
The art by Eryk Donovan is good with a grounded realistic feel that’s not too detailed, but detailed enough to be a believable rendition of reality. Where he excels is integrating Facebook, text messages and other social media into the art. In a lot of ways his portrayal of the tech makes reality less realistic. That gives everything a odd awareness of how terrible technology is, at least in this story. It was a bit odd that he drew ‘Raddit’ in one panel, especially since characters say ‘reddit’ in the book, but maybe that’s some kind of mistake due to not getting permission when he drew the images.
Cool way to foreshadow the doom that awaits!
Is It Good?
Compelling premise, interesting story and a mystery that drives everything in the right direction. Check this book out, especially since it’s so damn prescient right now.