By Jim Johnson
Most people know Alyssa Milano as an actress, but she’s also a philanthropist whose experiences in socially troubled parts of the world inspired her to come up with idea for this comic. “Hacktivist” #1, written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly with art by Marcus To, is based on a story by Milano where a covert pair of super-hackers, helps initiate an Arab spring-type revolution.
At least, that’s how the comic begins, but Milano’s story is about so much more, and Lanzing and Kelly make it absolutely huge. The writers all build their story around a pair of covert hackers who are actually the young inventors of the next wave of social networking and billionaire CEOs of the company they founded. The pair doesn’t just inspire social revolutions; they are social revolution, as their P2P social networking site is nothing short of revolutionary. The site’s users are able to connect and explore networking opportunities like never before, and the duo’s innovation has made them worldwide celebrities. But behind this legitimate façade are even more far-reaching ideas, and there’s a ubiquitous sense of tension between the two very-different young entrepreneurs and visionaries that beg for exploration.
It’s Facebook-meets-Napster-meets-Anonymous unleashed on a very real world that’s all too ready to embrace it as a tool for change, yet all too afraid of its potential pervasiveness and potential for abuse, and it’s absolutely fascinating. It’s an eerily realistic and very short extrapolation of today’s social climate into tomorrow’s, almost literally. It’s both a testimonial and a cautionary tale about the power of social media, and its potential for change on both a macro- and micro-level, and it doesn’t have to look very far to imagine what the next step could very well be. The cautionary part of the story is that this kind of power and capability for change is in the hands of two self-appointed individuals, and that the potential ramifications for this are complicated by their very different natures. The eccentricity of one vs. the recklessness of the other is a palpable enough conflict on its own, but the idea that this could play out with two partners where the world’s cyber-structure is their virtual sandbox and information on anyone or anything is literally at their fingertips, is downright scary.
Meanwhile, the synergy between Lanzing, Kelly and To is downright incredible. The pacing is superb; rarely have characters sitting behind a computer been able to instill such tension. The opening action sequence in Tunisia gives way to some backroom cyber trickery in San Francisco, but the suspense doesn’t let up during the transition when the story’s main players are introduced. When one of them finally presses the Enter key, turning the page yields a double page spread of protests back in the Middle East that is like a blast of sand to the face. Just as quick, it changes back, to expand on the central characters and their transfixing personalities. To lays out a number of impressive pages like this; most notably the final splash page, which perfectly brings to light the power that these lead characters truly have.
While social revolutions take place very visibly around the world, there is the implied notion here that there could very well be cyber-revolutions taking place very quietly, wirelessly, in conjunction with them. “Hacktivist” #1 is a comic that inspires thought, both wondrous and fearful. Milano’s idea is an incredibly important and relevant one that’s brilliantly brought to life by all creators involved.