Writers: Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Artist: Marcus To
Colors: Ian Herring
Review by Eric Owens
Hacktivist is one of those comics that makes you want to shove a copy into your friends’ hands and say “Read this so we can have a conversation about the story and the questions it raises about freedom and power in our super-connected global community.” People do that sort of thing, right? Well, now you have a reason to do it.
From the mind of Alyssa Milano and the keyboards of Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly comes the story of two young tech entrepreneur billionaires who decide to go several steps beyond “Don’t be evil.” Nate Graft and Ed Hiccox are the creators of the latest and greatest social network, yourlife. On the surface, it’s the place to get in touch with the people you need to help you achieve your goals, free from unwanted surveillance. Secretly, the pair uses the network to find people they believe can make a difference, like the Tunisian revolutionary Sirine, whom they assist by hacking the government’s firewall and allowing her to get a professor’s message broadcast to the people. Starting one revolution isn’t enough for the men behind .sve_urs3lf, the name used for their hacking operations. They’re out to change the world.
It’s a thought-provoking read that raises lots of questions applicable to the real-world. Should a couple of people wield the kind of power that Nate and Ed have? Conversely, as Ed points out, given their abilities, shouldn’t they do as much of what they believe to be right as they can? Then again, with the ability to reach literally hundreds of millions of users, can’t they use those connections to do more good without keeping everything secretive? There must be more than a few yourlife users who would happily contribute to a good cause beyond changing their profile picture for a couple of days. And that’s without going into the host of issues raised by the potential game changer at the end of the issue.
The art team of Marcus To and Ian Herring nail it on every level. Literally from head to toe, the character designs reveal the personality differences between Nate and Ed. Heck, their respective bushy and neat eyebrows are enough to get the basic idea across. The page layouts include come clever choices, like the transition from the bubbles at the yourlife keynote floating around with user’s pictures in them, to the circles that Ed draws on the window on the next page as he studies the comings and goings on the street below. It’s possible that the layout was in the script, in which case Lanzing and Kelly deserve credit as well, but To earns props for pulling it off. Also check out the way the ribbons that the acrobats are hanging from are used to block out panels in the first glimpse of the #somethingreckless event. The colors simply feel right, from the dry orange of the Tunisian summer to the cool blue of the server room and how they contrast when cutting back and forth, while the bright yellow of Sirine’s head scarf is mirrored in Ed’s tie. It’s a minor thing, but it furthers the link between these two characters despite the thousands of miles between them.
When done well, it’s easy to overlook the work of the letterer. Everything flows nicely and the reader has no problem following the story. Deron Bennett’s lettering goes beyond well done and deserves some special attention. Before we see Sirine and the professor, we know they’re speaking Arabic thanks to the script on the border of the caption boxes, which continues in the borders of their speech bubbles. When the characters switch to another language (presumably French given the location, but possibly English), the script is gone and the color of the text changes from red to black. It makes reading the transition between languages seamless, as the flow of conversation appears to be for the characters without needing any type of “Translated from Arabic—Your Eavesdropping Editor” caption box breaking the fourth wall. Along similar lines, by the time we’re introduced to Sirine and the professor in the third panel, we can tell who had said what because their caption boxes match the color of their respective clothes. The text message-style caption boxes at the #somethingreckless party are another nice touch.
Do people hold comic book club meetings in their homes or libraries in the same way they do for regular books? If not, that needs to change. If so, this would be an excellent selection. But at the end of the day, whether they do or don’t, Hacktivist should be mandatory reading for everyone.
Eric Owens is a dork, but he’s pretty comfortable with that. He sporadically checks in on twitter under @EricDOwens, but you might be able to drag him out of hiding to discuss comics.