"Memetic #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Eryk Donovan
2014, 45 Pages, $4.99
Comic released on October 22nd, 2014
Have you ever thought about all the stupid crap you share on Facebook on Twitter? Tons of pixels are wasted so you can show off the latest cat video or hilarious mash up of Doctor Who and a beagle. (Note: I totally made up that Doctor Who thing but I'm sure there's something on the Internet that resembles it.) What if one of those awesome pics that you posted led to the end of the world? That's sort of the idea behind Memetic from James Tynion IV and artist Eryk Donovan. A weaponized meme in the form of a a happy little sloth blazes through the Internet and leads to the apocalypse. Think of that the next time you want to send me pictures of your kids.
Memetic picks up with a college kid named Aaron who's going through a hard time with his boyfriend. He checks out the happy sloth picture and doesn't see what all the hub-bub is about. The next morning it's all anyone is talking about because the viewers are filled with this sense of happiness just from gazing upon the image. It spreads like wildfire as people share it everywhere. Then something bad happens. It gets bloody. Is anyone safe?
I'm not going into details as to how the other shoe drops, especially since Memetic is only three issues long (albeit three oversized issues). Suffice it to say, you can see the beginnings of the end of the world as society begins to crumble all due to a picture of the happiest sloth you've ever seen. Tynion has set up a few characters that are immune to the sloth's powers, either from a lack of sight or in Aaron's case, color blindness. These traits that were seen as handicaps before are now the only things that are preventing them from falling under this spell.
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What stands out immediately in Memetic is how identifiable each character is. You're right there with Aaron from the get-go. He's a misunderstood twenty-something who is having relationship trouble and just wants to be left alone for a little while. He has a hard time dealing with this sudden rush of happiness around him when he's absolutely miserable at the moment.
Balancing this out is Marcus, a former head of Military Intelligence. He provides the real world view of the situation and will hopefully find a way to combat it. Although he's retired, Marcus seems like the kind of guy that has a hard time leaving his work behind. He still wants to be involved in the military, but they've moved on. Just as with Aaron, I'm sure there are many aspects of Marcus' life that we can all relate to.
Things move very quickly in Memetic, going from shiny and happy to horrific and bloody. When things turn, it happens suddenly, as if a switch was flipped between sane and crazy. It leaves almost no time for the characters to react and it instantly ups the tension as these people that we've come to relate to are running for their lives.
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Donovan's artwork helps this along too. The characters seem totally normal at first. Aaron could be going to any college in the country. Marcus could live next door to you. When things get violent – and oh, do they get violent – this normalcy makes the book all the more terrifying. You almost have a hard time believing it's real because something this frightening couldn't possibly happen to these everyday people.
The happy sloth meme is actually pretty awesome looking. I would be surprised if BOOM! Studios doesn't promote the hell out of this thing with t-shirts and stickers. I know I want a shirt with this guy on it. It's such a simple image with a sloth giving a thumbs up and a big spiraling circle behind it. It's simultaneously cool and creepy. There's something off about it but I can't look away.
Also included in this issue is some background information on the characters as well as the meme itself. This portion is designed to look like Facebook, which works perfectly with the theme of the book. It's a fun add-on. Plus, look for a few Easter eggs in the form of references to Tynion's other BOOM! Studios title, The Woods.
Memetic begins with a fairly silly idea (an Internet meme that brings about the apocalypse) and quickly establishes it as a terrifying way for the world to end. The characters come off as completely real and the use of social media within the comic feels very natural and not forced at all. It's a human take on the complete destruction of society, showing how fast we can go from smart phones to cave men all thanks to a seemingly innocent picture of a happy little sloth.