“Being a hero stopped being about anything heroic. It became about winning.”
In some ways, that captures the entire struggle contained within Thumbs. The very concept of the future war revolving around those who thought they could save humanity, and the horrific society that resulted from their failures. In Thumbs #5, the finale, that entire concept rears its head in cold and tragic ways. Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman deliver a finale that speaks to the core truths surrounding technology, the future, and humanity. The idea that technology and its power over us will lead to our own downfall, indoctrination, and destruction is an extremely powerful one on display here. It’s important to look at the entire story of Thumbs to examine how Lewis and Sherman foresee the intersection between technology, humanity, and the future.
We open in a state of shock after Tabitha mistakenly shoots Nia through the chest. Charley’s more introspective captions bookend the issue. While used more for exposition during Thumbs #1 and #2, they’ve been used more sparingly in recent issues to elevate heavy-hitting moments. “Computers allow you to fire missiles… Humanity allows you to build a shield,” he says. It’s a particularly poignant comment reflecting on the series as a whole. There are never any tactics displayed for defense or protection. Everyone is always attacking someone else, and technology makes it so easy to do so. Those with the most humanity are typically the children, addicted to technology and forced to live underground so as to avoid persecution, and even then, they’re always prepping for the attack.
As the stage is set for the final showdown in this endless war, the pieces are shuffled yet again. Nia is presumed dead, Charley is once again separated from Tabitha and looks to find Mom™, and Neve reaches out to Tabitha in a time of need. There’s a constant aura of instability on a grand scale, and this is displayed by the heavy use of splash pages and double-page spreads which make up a significant portion of this issue. Sherman has never been afraid to go grand in previous issues, but Thumbs #5 is on a new level. Sherman lays the city with all of its chaos and destruction out you to see as if to say, “We did this. Not them, us.” It was humanity that caused this and technology that allowed them to do it. There are a large plethora of books that serve as cautionary tales about the dangers of technology, but few quite as effective as Thumbs because of its ability to capture the artificial nature of the subject matter within the pages. There is nothing natural, beautiful, right, or just about the world within the pages of Thumbs #5 and Sherman drives that point home through his granular texture and monochromatic palette. What plays out before us is the ultimatum; the final showdown for all that is human. It is grandest finale that could be portrayed. Our humanity is on the line.
This may beg the question in some of your minds: Can Thumbs #5 sustain the narrative at such a high scale for 60 pages? The answer is a resounding yes. Lewis has created a small but powerful case of characters throughout the last five issues, and they are what keeps this city-wide war grounded. They are what remind you that amidst all of the violence, destruction, and death are children who just want a chance to live rather than survive. There’s a lot of shooting and rubble everywhere, but the book never lets you forget the hearts of the future at its center.