Written by Ovi Demetrian Jr.
Art by James Whynot
First of all, I want to reinforce that this is, first and foremost, a comic book review. I’ll not go into the specifics of comic books’ place and stature in mainstream media; whether or not it should be regarded as a serious platform for social change, none of it. If you read these things at all it’s because at a base level you are, as am I, a fan of comic books. Superheroes and mutants and walking corpses, all are the minutia of the comic reader.
That being said, Hacktivity raises some issues that have been and are currently an issue in our global society. So keep that in mind. I’d like to stay as close on topic as I can, and perhaps this sentence will be unmercifully cut later in the proof, but we’ll see.
Terrorism comes in many forms. I’d rather not get into the “Webster’s Dictionary defines terrorism as…” kind of beginning, but in this case, the definition is really the key. Hacktivity, an original graphic novel from Ovi Demetrian Jr. and James Whynot, focuses on cyber-terrorism and the reality that the government has its eye on computer activity in this country.
Shawn Harris is a blogger, one of the most common types of social computer users on the Net. How many millions of people log on to sites every day and blather on about their cats, the cost of a gallon of gas, or how their neighbor might be hiding a secret fetish for Raggedy Ann dolls? In Shawn’s case, he is one who is watching the government, hacking into secure databases and exposing lies to the public. His problem, like the conundrum of all Raggedy Ann fetishists, is that his audience is only those who may stumble upon him. It’s the way these things work, and like a slow fire, sometimes they catch.
Shawn has unwittingly uncovered a classified document that was being closely monitored. The FBI comes to shut him down and he is arrested for cyber terrorism. On his way to prison other like-minded individuals, followers and colleagues from the Internet, free him. They go on a campaign to befoul the political hopes of Senator Calloway, the man pushing “Project Jeeves”, a program that will track certain keywords and build a profile. It is a fairly quick process, despite the 96-page length of the book.
This kind of book is always an interesting read, specifically because it comes from a need to “do the right thing”. The creators saw a problem and are trying to educate the public through a familiar media form.
The art, done by James Whynot, is unique. Sometimes it feels very dark and sometimes too busy, but it has a style that reminds me a bit of Dragonball Z style anime. There was also the inclusion of dialogue boxes in the form of Twitter and Facebook posts, which really helped to showcase the use of social media and the spread of ideas, something critical to the protagonists’ success. These provided some crucial exposition and it was a cunning way to incorporate that into the book.
Harris is an Edward Snowden type of character. He does what he feels is right, to let the public know the truth. I don’t know that the end result of the story is entirely realistic given the way political campaigns work in this country, but it ends in a better place than it begins. I understand that, for a complete story, you must have a beginning, middle, and end, but this feels too cut and dried, too pat, when taken with the rest of the book. It portrays the government as I imagine Mr. Snowden would, without realistically taking in the effects that a bad cyber-attack would have on the infrastructure of our country. It shows the populace of the country as alarmist, encouraged by the media, provoked into irrational decisions based on fear…
See? See what happened there? I started to rant and rave, become involved in a topic that is tangentially connected to the comic, but not about the comic itself. See that? That’s what makes Hacktivity successful. Because whether or not you agree with Mr. Demetrian and Mr. Whynot, they’ve produced a piece of art that gets you thinking about the topics that are effecting our society right now. And that, in the end, is what makes a project like this successful.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.