The best thing about Memetic is that it’s a story that could happen tomorrow, and that scares the bejesus out of me. Dystopian end-of-the-world scenarios are almost passe in comics at this point; the market is totally saturated with bleak hellscapes and broken societies. This book, however, presents something unique, timely, and thought-provoking. James Tynion and Eryk Donovan do a great job crafting compelling protagonists and laying the stage for an interesting parable about the ways we communicate and consume information.
“Meme culture” is everywhere. Not just on the internet, but in our language. Every time you hear someone (probably me) say “because of reasons,” a meme is being perpetuated. Things are reblogged or retweeted or shared with unquestioning acceptance in a lot of cases, and before you know it bad juju is beyond containment. This hyper-accelerated spread of information and its impact on human interaction is the core theme of Memetic. A meme is weaponized, people die, the Folks in Charge have no idea what to do. In the world of the 24-hour news cycle and weird relatives sharing Drudge Report links on Facebook, it’s not hard to see this happening. Tynion excels at taking the ordinary and finding a
terrifying angle on it. I’m also a big fan of the three-issue structure – it lends itself to a very concise, tight story.
He’s also great at creating characters to whom you get immediately attached. Aaron brings some much needed representation for persons with disabilities – he’s both hearing and vision impaired – as does Marcus Shaw, the retired blind soldier. Aaron is also a rejection of the angry young male protagonist. He’s sensitive and thoughtful, but not the stereotypical “misunderstood victim” in any way. Tynion has a very keen talent for writing real teenagers/young adults – not angry adults who are just sold as teenagers. It’s really easy to tell when someone is doing pantomime in that regard, and it’s something I just don’t worry about in his work.
Eryk Donovan’s character designs are deceptively simple – you get the sense every fashion choice or facial feature is intentional (I’m a big fan of Shaw’s old scars – subtly telling the reader that while this is an old man, in his day he was not to be F-ed with, and probably still isn’t). The star of the show is the meme itself – Happy Good Time Sloth belongs on tshirts, canvas totes, and coffee mugs. It’s so immediately iconic of modern memes, I just want to throw giant blocks of sarcastic text over it. The whole book is well-drawn, well-colored, and well- designed (especially those fake social networking pages).
So, to recap: intriguing concept, timely questions, and very sharp character work. Best of luck to Team Memetic. I hope they stick the landing.
The Verdict: 9.0/10