This was an expensive week for me. Lots of stuff on Comixology, a new pair of glasses to pay for and saving for something quite life-changing next year means I’m trying to curtail my comic buying to interesting stuff. Thankfully the cover to Memetic looked interesting and a read of the synopsis interested me enough to buy it with my week’s comics from Comixology.
A meme is an idea that starts with an individual, and then spreads throughout multiple persons and potentially entire societies. Richard Dawkins suggests a meme’s success comes from its effectiveness to the host. But history shows that destructive memes can spread just as rapidly through society. MEMETIC shows the progression of a weaponized meme that leads to the utter annihilation of the human race within 72 hours. The root of this apocalypse is a single image on the internet, a “meme” in the popular sense. A meme that changes everything.
Written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Eryk Donovan, a couple I’ve not read or seen work from before, Memetic is an apocalyptic tale that doesn’t involve aliens or zombies and it’s the lack of zombies in an apocalyptic comic that really hooked me. The idea of a meme destroyed the human race in 72 hours is a scary one, and a brilliant bit of contemporary science fiction. However is the comic any good beyond it’s one rather brilliant idea?
Our main character Aaron, is the sort of 20-something who spends their free time online on Twitter, various forums and wanking, but he’s unaffected by this image which is, well, the sort of thing that would be shared and raved about online quite easily. In fact here it is…
It’s a sloth giving a thumbs up against a weird background which for some reason makes everyone but Arron tingle with happiness. Thing is Arron is slightly deaf, colourblind and is moping after splitting up with his boyfriend, and everyone is obsessed with this image of a sloth giving the thumbs up. It’s all over his Facebook feed, which is what happens with memes, but it’s everywhere with nobody not posting it or talking about it. even the most popular memes aren’t that popular. Even his friend Sarah is obsessed by it. It even makes the mainstream media and becomes news.
Memetic really is a massive surprise of a book. Yes, the apocalyptic comic is done to death and yes, it does read like a film script but it’s such a freshly original idea written well and drawn well, that it’s so easy to ignore the cliched characters which do pop up. It’s an engaging, quite fascinating bit of science fiction that breathes life into a genre which has been dragging itself along by its fingernails for some time now.
It’s the sense of imposing doom that’s great about this story. There’s no mucking around as Tynion throws the reader right in it nor does he insult the reader’s intelligence by dumbing down some very large, complex ideas in the comic about the nature of memes, and the ease which information can spread in the internet age.
For 12 hours it’s all a funny news story if a tad annoying for those unaffected by it. Then at 12 hours bad things start happening and 500 million people become crazed lunatics. We’ve seen this sort of destruction and violence in comics like Crossed and Walking Dead, but there’s a different slant to this, even if the last half of the book does feel a bit like Stephen King’s Cell.
So what is the #GoodTimeSloth I dunno, but I hope the reveal and the payoff is as enjoyable (as the apocalypse can be) as this issue.