Thursday, November 5, 2015

Unfollow #1 Review and *SPOILERS*

Life Is But A Meme, Sweetheart

Written By: Rob Williams
Art By: Mike Dowling, Quinton Winter, Clem Robins
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: November 4, 2015

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

What if we lived in a world where people were mesmerized by handheld liquid crystal display screens that constantly beamed news and the whereabouts of our friends and family to our flickering eyes? What’s that you say? “Too long; didn’t read?” That’s the problem with the world today, if you can’t condense your thoughts into nine or fewer syllables, then they’re not even worth being thunk. Why, when I was a boy we’d have to read a thousand words of preamble just before we got to the Nutrition Information panel on our breakfast cereal, and we liked it by gum! If you’ve only got enough attention span to read either this review or the comic book Unfollow, then go read Unfollow. But if you’ve got it in you to know my thoughts about the issue, then read on!

Explain It!

I love when a story opens at a warm, exotic locale, sometimes I like to sit and luxuriate in a particularly nice panel before moving on with the tale. We open at Visitors Bliss Cay, a privately-owned island in the Bahamas, where Chirper employee Rees is being hunted down by some guy in a suit and a tribal mask that looks like a laughing lion with a long, red beard. “What’s Chirper,” you ask? Why, it’s only the brainchild of multi-billionaire Larry Ferrell, whose optimistic thoughts about humanity are overlaid on these scenes of attempted murder in the form of one-hundred and forty character-long missives typed into his computer application and broadcast to the world via Chirper. See? What a brilliant idea! I wonder if anyone has thought about that in this reality? The guy in the mask, who we know as Rubenstein, eventually corners Rees at the edge of a cliff, where Rees babbles some stuff about a list and being needed to control the one-forty, blah blah blah. Then he tosses himself off the cliff and dies, which looks like it sort of bums Rubenstein out. He did have a gun cocked and ready, after all.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Missouri, brother and sister duo David and Devon and three thugs from their neighborhood are breaking into the electronics store where Devon works to, well, steal electronics. Once inside, they prepare to start hauling doohickeys and whatchamacallits when all of the devices in the store go on at once and begin calling out to David. Everyone flees the store but David, who sees a leopard walk up to the storefront window and tells him that he will have to kill soon. Which, by the way, is one of the top five things that could happen that would cause me to check myself into the nearest insane asylum. Back in the Bahamas, we find Rubenstein is pals with Larry Ferrell, who looks like he’s dying or at least is pretty anemic and enjoys lying in bed with tubes in his face. They make some cryptic comments that seem to amount to a mutual wink and a nod, and then we’re back to the action!

Seventy-five thousand feet above Manhattan, New York City, trust funded brat Courtney (or “@CourtneyOMG” as she is known on Chirper) is preparing for a charity sky dive with four other unimportant people by popping some pills. They all leap out, but when Courtney is supposed to pop her parachute she soars into the canyon of skyscrapers and almost slams into a building before making her death-defying landing. Before cameras, she tells the world that she’s giving her entire trust fund to a family whose son has cerebral palsy, just to cheese off her dad. Kids can be so ungrateful. What will she do with her birthday present, feed the homeless? Just when Courtney thinks she is free of her burdensome wealth, she learns that she is rich again, due to an amazing program devised by Larry Ferrell that I am calling “The Reverse-It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Gambit.”

See, all around the world, one-hundred and forty randomly selected people will find new apps appearing on their phones that read “140.” These people have won a portion of Ferrell’s seventeen billion dollar fortune, which amounts to one-hundred and twenty million dollars each. This entire plot is laid out in two panels, look just check ‘em out below!

This is a good and bad thing; good because it keeps the infodump concise and does boring math for us, but bad because it makes one wonder if there’s any substance to this contrivance. Anyway, after this revelation, we shoot around the globe checking in on people that have been blessed with the new app that doesn’t even have in-app purchases: a Persian journalist tasked with covering atrocities against women who is just about to commit suicide, the kid David who thought he saw and heard a leopard command him to kill, and a bearded old dude in a ponytail praying before a wall full of various guns and promising to do the work of the Lord. What could possibly go wrong?

This is a really interesting story, I think I learned just exactly enough to keep me interested for another issue—any less, and I’d probably drift away. Despite my silly preamble about today’s tech-obsessed culture, this comic book isn’t really about that, at least not totally. It’s more about the aggrandizing of wealth by tech companies and the weird personalities that might control that wealth. There’s obviously some grander scheme being employed here, but even at face value this one issue is pretty thought provoking and intriguing. The art is very nice and has a textured feel to it. I’m sure people have made comparisons to Frank Quitely and I suppose some do apply, but Rowley’s art is much more fluid and less bulbous and just looks good from panel to panel. The coloring is very detailed and seems like (and may be) watercolors. If you were looking for a treatise against Twitter and social media, you won’t find it in this issue. Instead, you will find a pretty compelling mystery that begs for more information. So I’ll see you next month, hopefully with some more information!

Bits and Pieces:

If you jumped from my preamble to this part, then I must confess that this comic book has nothing to do with condemning or exalting social media. It’s more of an unfolding conspiracy that is very relevant to current events, particularly in the tech- and app-based worlds. The characterization is good, the art is great, it’s worth checking out if you like a little intrigue with your floppy books.

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