Memetic #1

Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Eryk Donovan
Colors by Adam Guzowski
Letters by Steve Wands
Published by Boom! Studios

What's your favorite dumb internet meme?  Personally, I think there are few things more stupidly addictive (or addictively stupid) than the Dramatic Chipmunk and Badger Badger Badger (I particularly could just get sucked into watching the Badger video for far longer than I am comfortable admitting).* There's just something addictive about these things. For the most part, they're harmless enough. But what if an internet meme...was EVIL (even more so than they usually are)...and could bring about THE END OF THE WORLD?!?!

He seems way too friendly to destroy civilization
That's the premise behind the Memetic, an engaging, off-the-wall new miniseries from Boom! which imagines an incredibly addictive internet meme as being the primary cause of the rapid downfall of civilization. There's astute social satire here, along with a quick descent into chaos (which is always fun). The story follows a few different people during the course of a day, along with briefly flashing forward three days to when civilization has already collapsed as a result of the "Good Times Sloth" Internet meme. Aaron is a college student dealing with a fight with his boyfriend; because he's color blind he's not affected by the meme.  Marcus is a retired military official who is dealing with macular degeneration (i.e., going blind) and is therefore also unable to see (and be affected by) the meme. During the course of the day the story follows them and their friends and/or former colleagues, as they react to the "Good Times Sloth" spreading like wildfire all around them. At first the meme makes you feel euphoric, but that feeling is addictive. Within twelve hours you go completely insane, violently so. By the end of the first day (and the first issue) things have pretty well gone to hell. 

This is a very entertaining first (oversized) issue, which begins with the appealing illustration. At the outset, if the meme wasn't effective, the story wouldn't work as well. Thankfully, the meme works well here. It's weird and interesting and hypnotic enough to help the reader believe that this really is something that could spread addictively. All of the social media illustrations in this story are important (as the story needs to demonstrate the way media would spread an addictive idea) and those scenes and components of the story are visually well rendered. The characters are drawn in a slightly angular, elongated style, while generally appearing fairly realistic. Character design, facial acting and body language are all nicely handled here, particularly in the case of Aaron who's having his own personal challenges throughout the day as well as dealing with the ramifications of the sloth, and his anxiety, fear and frustration clearly come across in the art. Both of the main characters (Aaron and Marcus) are compellingly created through the art and the story as outsiders (as Aaron and Marcus are unable to experience the meme), and so they also serve as an effective window into the rapid changes in the world.

There's real stakes here, and the social satire is nicely balanced with a sense of consequences and drama. The notion of addictive Internet memes ultimately killing us feels like an idea that easily could have gone wrong, but the satire doesn't feel excessive or overly obvious. I don't know that the creators are intending to make any grand point about social media (other than it's ubiquitous and kind of silly), but rather seem to just be using it as a jumping off point to tell a story about the end of the world. One of the fun parts of the story is that throughout the day, you see people's various tweets, texts and status updates. One noteworthy thing about the story (and I'd take this as a sign of effective satire) is seeing how banal and insipid most people's social media communications really are.**

Given how quickly and destructively the meme spreads on the first day, I'm very curious to see where the story goes in the next few issues (it's a 3-issue miniseries). For an entertaining, insightful, "this is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a tweet" type story, take a look at Memetic.

* Enjoy:

** Not yours, of course, loyal Panel Patter reader. You're like the Oscar Wilde of Twitter.  I'm talking about those other guys.