Regardless of how advanced or behind we are in technology, humanity will always be attracted to violence. That’s the main takeaway from this month’s issue of Analog. Unfortunately, other takeaways are scarce.
To recap, Jack McGinnis is our protagonist who introduces us to a world where the internet became insecure (a situation that he contributed to). In the wake of this development, he and others have taken up employment as “paper jockeys,” armed mercenaries who get paid to deliver secret information via physical means. When we last left Jack, he went to visit his dad only to find that that folks that attempted to intercept him at the start of the issue appear to have tailed him and now threaten both the McGinnis males. The issue kicks off with some witty back and forth between father and son, in particular on the topic of meatballs, alcohol, and chopping up bodies, all while they are fighting off the intruders. They are eventually cornered and meet a government representative named Aunt Sam, who turns out to be the source of Jack’s troubles.
Eventually Jack is accosted and brought to her headquarters, where she reveals she isn’t happy with the current state of things and wants to put “the genie back in the bottle,” but in the same breath shows Jack a room full of copiers and says that her proposal is to get Jack and other paper jockeys to start giving her the contents of their deliveries. He is then thrown out and beat up for good measure. We then meet Oona, Jack’s girlfriend from the last issue, and as the two chat we see that in his own way Jack seems to be giving some serious thought to the points raised by Sam. The issue ends with a demonstration of possible “pressure” that Sam referred to, that could be used to get Jack to comply.
Let’s get what I liked out of the way: the banter! I enjoy the defiant, rough-around-the-edges attitude Jack has. We see that he probably gets it from his father, who joins in and the two have a hilarious series of verbal exchanges as they are shooting down Sam’s goons. It’s also nice to see that his thoughts are written in a voice that’s consistent with how he talks. He’s a simple guy who only reflects on a few things: fights, Oona, and his participation in breaking the web (and therefore changing the world). It seems the government has sensed this and has bet that he will be easy to break. While it isn’t clear in this issue if that was a good bet, we seem poised to find out in the next issue. The relationship between Oona and Jack is also fleshed out a bit, as she is a nice contrast to his simplicity with her passion for social justice coming through. It seems that if anyone pushed them into taking action when they participated in the “breaking,” it was her. She talks about fascism and detention camps, showing that her mind is set and she is content with the state of the world.
What I didn’t like in the storyline was pretty much everything else. It’s inevitable that there was going to be someone nefarious who didn’t like the state of things, but the threats made by Aunt Sam come across as quite generic and hard to take seriously. “You will take every job offered to you” seems a bit hard to enforce once you realize that Jack might simply be able to just go off the grid further and not advertise himself for a while. How would they be able to track him anyway, since neither him nor his employers use online channels? A room full of copiers also doesn’t strike much of an impact with me as, say, someone launching a new alternative to the internet that has security guaranteed, only to be 100% controlled by the government secretly. It did give us a pretty hilarious cover though, with what appears to be Jack getting his face shoved in a copier and someone hitting the print button!
Visually, the issue is passable, but whereas last issue the lack of major “splash shots” was compensated by some intriguing images of life in the new world, in this issue there really isn’t much going on at all. It’s probably more a product of the story that in the last issue — there was a lot of world-building and character development, which allowed for more diversity in the panels, but in this issue, we literally get three separate scenes where it’s just violence (and the fights themselves aren’t really memorable because of the action, but more because of the banter).
Otherwise, the only big opportunities to really make an impact on the art front are with the reveal of copiers and with the introduction of Oona. I actually was quite unimpressed with how she was portrayed; in the panels where she appears at the end for some reason she is drawn in a blocky manner with little that is memorable about her style or look, despite the big words and passion that she conveys verbally. It seems that for whatever reason a lot more effort went into drawing and showing the expressions of Jack and Aunt Sam, and Oona is rushed through as you can tell from the several background shots she is in.
I was mostly disappointed by this issue. After an intriguing premise with a strong backstory and memorable characters, I was hoping for more information about the secrets and the villains. Unfortunately, the secrets themselves are still unknown along with their impact, and the villain turns out to be predictable. I’m intrigued by the preview for the next chapter, where it seems Oona is going to get caught up with some white nationalists and Jack will be pulled to Tokyo, so it looks like things will move forward again. While the scripting itself is fun and gives the lead a unique voice, a big turnaround in character development and plot is going to be required to keep this series on my short list. We’ll have to chalk this one up to being a bit of a filler issue and hope that it lives up to the preview next time.