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‘Memetic:’ Advance TPB Review

The trade paperback of Memetic collects all three issues of James Tynion IV (Batman Eternal, Ufology) and Eryk Donovan’s (In the Dark, Imaginary Drugs) 2014 three-issue, paranoia-laced, completely unnerving horror series about the spread of information in the social media world.

So many amazing things have happened because of social media, from social upheavals (The revolution in Egypt which wouldn’t have been possible without Twitter.) to the insanely personal (a young boy with cancer becoming Batman for a day in San Francisco). We, often times, are able to come together as a world community to feel joy and shock, to cheer each other on, grieve together, and learn together. It’s a wonderful place. Memetic ponders the opposite side of that coin. Or does it?

Aaron, a gay college student who is both color blind and wears a hearing aid, is the central figure of our story. Like most everyone else today, he is an internet junkie. He can’t stop himself from staying on for just a few more minutes (just like I couldn’t stop myself from checking Facebook several times while reading the book to forward on some meme or video clip). Within the first few pages, Aaron comes across a meme of a sloth giving a thumbs up. Like the Philosoraptor, it’s ridiculously innocuous, but everyone who sees this meme is subjected to the most amazing feels they’ve ever felt: euphoria! Aaron, because of his maladies, is immune to the ever-increasing, religious fervor-sized mental-gasms that the rest of the world is approaching. The shift is sudden, and the euphoric feeling becomes downright horrific when anyone who has seen the meme begins bleeding from the eyes and violently attacking those around them. There are a few others distrusting of the meme, one is an ex-Colonel who is slowly losing his eye sight. He’s heading up a team to find the source of the meme to try and reverse the symptoms, but when virtually everyone on the planet has seen the happy sloth, the chances for success seem almost zero.

I watched an interview with Eli Roth the other day which was recorded shortly after Cabin Fever became a surprise hit, and he rants that horror movies no longer hold the weight they used to. That any horror movie that might reach for themes that are deeper now calls themselves “thrillers.” It’s a very passionate treatise on our state of a genre in which great filmmakers used to explore the darker side of humanity. To Roth, I say, “Here.” Here is a copy of Memetic. Read it. The simple truth is that as great as the passing of information through social media can be, what happens when lies are spread, when people are bullied or dog-piled on for having a different idea? Memetic packs all of those fears under the surface of this simple horror offering with an ending that would make David Cronenberg or Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) proud.

None of it would be very effective if we didn’t have Tynion’s deft handling of his characters and Donovan’s beautiful renderings of them. They really care about their creations, and they understand as creators that we have to care about them, as well, or the horror won’t matter. Aaron, because of his condition, has been an outsider his entire life, and we follow his journey, as even though this meme is driving people insane, he feels even more and more left out because he can’t feel what everyone else is feeling. It’s this brilliantly composed, antithetical observation of the events that plays in stark contrast to most of our thoughtless horror films being pumped out these days . . . that Eli Roth almost bursts a blood vessel over.

This is a frightening and beautiful book that is being released just as their new collaboration, Cognetic #1 (which I recently reviewed and loved), hits stands. Buy them.

Not only is Tynion creating some of the most astute genre comics these days, but BOOM! Studios has a whole line of intelligent and thematically relevant offerings being released on a fairly consistent basis.