Tony and Brendan have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. Brendan tends to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, their paths cross, but like most readers, they tend to stay in their own lanes.
New To You Comics is here to break up the pattern a little. Tony will throw some of his favorites at Brendan, and Brendan will hit Tony with some of his. Every NTYC title is brand new to one of them. Every once in a while a title will land with both of them. Most of the time they can find some common ground, but even when they don’t, it’s fun to watch them go at it. Brendan fights dirty. Tony kicks like a mule.
This week, Brendan introduces Tony to Image Comics’ Analog Vol. 1: Death By Algorithm, by Gerry Duggan, David O’Sullivan, Jordie Bellaire, and Joe Sabino. Here’s what Image says about the book:
‘2024: the world has been mass-doxxed, and the internet is only for porn. Every email, photo, and document ever sent rains down out of the cloud, and only a fool would send a secret over the web. This is the era of the “Paper Jockeys”: armed couriers with a briefcase of secrets who’ll get your sensitive information around the globe or die trying.
Human punching bag Jack McGinnis and his partner Oona are two of the best couriers in the business. For a price, they’ll move your sensitive information where it needs to go as they fight off fascists, criminals, and spies.’
Brendan Allen: How do you write a classic noir story realistically set in the near future? Take away the internet. Or, leave the internet, but make it completely useless for anything but amateur porn. Gerry Duggan uses an event called “The Great Doxxing” to annihilate any illusion of internet security. This is the cataclysmic event no one is prepared for.
Think about that for one quick second. You’re probably reading this on a phone or a tablet. That device has your entire life on it. Your banking info, email, passwords, browsing history, private photos, video…all stored on that little piece of plastic, glass, and voodoo. Of course, you probably have nothing to hide, but how would your life change if all of that info was instantly public record?
If secrets are currency, here’s the new Great Depression.
Tony Thornley: This is one of those “fifteen minutes later” scifi stories and that might be one of my favorite genres. I remember reading the first and maybe the second issues of this series when it came out. This premise is the perfect near-future set-up for the story Duggan and O’Sullivan want to tell.
It’s scary too. The amount of information that could end up out there… Even without any secrets, there’s so much information on the web at any given time.
Brendan: It’s really interesting how people operate under this delusion of “privacy,” while putting their entire lives on social media. It’s a really vulnerable feeling to imagine that that veil could be instantly lifted.
Tony: It’s the whole thing everyone has been saying about vaccine misinformation. Anti-vaxxers posting about tracking chips from their iPhones. So Duggan takes that idea and heightens it. No one has any privacy any more, so what does that mean? In the US, that means they lean into it. It’s bordering on hedonism. In Japan, they unplugged, forming a society just before the information age. Aside from the gritty noir, there’s some really creative world building!
Brendan: I also think it’s really interesting that when people think of post-apocalyptic scenarios, they’re all about radioactive events, or world wars, or daikaiju attacking, or meteors, when all it really takes to bring the world to its knees is much simpler.
Tony: I get that Duggan wanted to tell a story about a courier dealing with the underbelly of this world, but it would be really fun to just spend some time with it. What’s it like for the average joe?
That said, Jack lives a hell of a life and I did really enjoy following him.
Brendan: David O’Sullivan’s pencils and Jordie Bellaire’s palette bring the script to the page in a way that is true to Duggan’s steampunk/post-fascist/neo-noir vision. Duggan once described Analog’s art as “chaotic, beautiful, and repulsive, sometimes on the same page.” That tracks.
Tony: Yeah, O’Sullivan is extremely expressive, which is a fantastic compliment to the style and genre of the story. He’s very reminiscent of Bruce Timm.
Brendan: I do have a small issue with the consistency between panels. Sometimes characters shrink and grow from panel to panel. There’s one female character who is a full grown adult in one frame, then looks like a child holding a cigarette in the next. It happens a few times, usually when someone turns away from the reader, and it’s a little odd, but it doesn’t happen often enough to really make a stink over.
Tony: Yeah, I noticed that too. You could tell he was growing as he drew the book. It’s almost like he sacrificed some of the consistency for style and detail. Which there’s a lot of. My issue is that sometimes it was a little much that it was overwhelming, but it also did serve the world-building side of the story.
But I think I’m picking nits when I say that. He really did a great job in general. He really grew over the course of the five issues in this volume.
Brendan: No doubt. I wouldn’t put anything up for the column that I didn’t love. This is no exception. The art and the script work really well together, maintaining that gritty noir feel in a modern setting, which is incredibly difficult.
Tony: Yeah and Bellaire deserves a lot of credit too. She is so good at matching palette to story. This world still has bright colors, but they’re all slightly muted. I didn’t see pastels or neon colors (outside of actual neon). They were just a few shades off from that. It’s like the great doxxing took a little bit of color out of the world.
Brendan: We sang Bellaire’s praises a couple weeks ago when we did Redlands. She’s really very versatile, and adds whole layers of dimension to any story she’s attached to.
Tony: Definitely. It’s a strong book all around with room to grow.
Brendan: Analog strips away the curtain of the mystical, magical internet for a generation that has never known anything but instant streaming, two-day shipping, selfies, and free nudie pics. Give us one pissed off Gen-Xer who takes all that away, and you’re left with a 70’s style noir.
I love this first arc. Where’d you land on it?
Tony: I enjoyed it. I really like most near-future scifi, and this is no exception. You can see growth in the creative team over the course of it, which is one of my favorite parts of reading creator owned stories. It’s a win. Plus, I’m a big fan of Duggan’s. I’m planning on a title or two of his to talk about soon.
Brendan: Cool. I’m going to go ahead and add Dead Eyes (fka Dead Rabbit) to the queue for a future column. It’s the comic I’m most pissed about the pandemic torpedoing. Hopefully there are plans to kick it back up soon.
What’s up for next week?
Tony: It’s been a while since I’ve brought you an older classic story. So, next week, we’re going to look at one of the greatest titles in DC Comics history- the first arc of JLA by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter.