Odds are, you’ve seen your share of memes. From Grumpy Cat to Yo Dawg, Conspiracy Keanu to Bad Luck Brian, memes are hard to avoid. Especially if you spend a lot of time online, as most of us do. Internet memes have become a kind of cultural shorthand – an easy way to make a joke or a state a point without too much effort. But the one thing we can all be sure of is that memes are basically harmless.
Unless, of course, that meme is the Good Times Sloth.
Memetic #1 is the first part in a three issue story from BOOM! Studios about a meme that destroys the world. How could a simple Internet meme do such a thing? Well, that’s part of the mystery of the comic. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our main character is Aaron, a college kid who uses a hearing aid and can’t see color. During an Internet binge session following a fight with his boyfriend, Aaron comes across a picture on Reddit (or “Raddit” as it appears in the artwork despite being referred to by its real name in dialogue) that users report makes them feel happy just by looking at it. The picture, quickly nicknamed the Good Times Sloth, features the eponymous tree-dweller smiling and giving a thumbs up in front of a swirling multicolored background. However, Aaron finds that his color-blindness prevents it from working on him. At first, he’s frustrated by this. But he soon realizes that something is very wrong, as everyone who looks at the image becomes obsessed, staring at it constantly and making sure to spread the image around so that others will see it as well. Within hours, the sloth is everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, the news, and even fliers posted around campus.
We also get a secondary character in Marcus Shaw, a retired military intelligence officer with macular degeneration who realizes that the picture is a form of memetic warfare. He calls on an old colleague who had predicted just such a thing, hoping to figure out who is responsible for the Good Times Sloth and how it can have such strange effects. But they don’t get very far before all hell breaks loose in dramatic and disturbing fashion.
Memetic #1 is fantastic. The writer, James Tynion IV, does a great job with showing how social media enables the fast spread of the meme, giving us both a bird’s eye view of things along with a more up close and personal look into the lives of the characters. Artist Eryk Donovan’s image of the Good Times Sloth is perfect, and the rest of the art in the comic is spot-on as well, with facial expressions and body language that help you get a hold on the characters.
And then there’s the concept itself. It should be noted that there have been other works using similar themes: The novel Snow Crash features a primal language that acts like a computer code to manipulate people; the OVA Read or Die centers around a symphony that makes people commit suicide; and the short story BLIT is about a terrorist who uses a stencil and spray paint to graffiti an image that kills whoever sees it. But what sets Memetic apart is the way that it takes full advantage of life in the 21st century, where spreading memes has become second nature to us. The idea that we could so quickly and easily sow the seeds of our own destruction is unsettling, to say the least.
If you like Internet culture or tales of the apocalypse, Memetic is the comic for you. I know I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next two issues.
Memetic #1 is available from BOOM! now.