by Carl Boehm
Nate and Ed, billionaires from their social networking site, YourLife, use their computing abilities to effect change on the global political scale. Under the hacker guise sve_Urs3lf, the duo liberate the oppressed by opening communication channels that tyrannical régimes shut down.
At the close of the last issue, a US government agent offered the pair a contract that would exonerate them from criminal charges (namely treason) in return for their cooperation. Nate and Ed, however, are not the kind to be suckered in by a government deal.
In issue 2, the billionaires concede to the Agent Ori’s offer. Ed, reluctant and distant, puts his faith in Nate to make the right decision. The US Government allows the duo to continue with their operations in Tunisia.
A brief but very deliberate aside explores the nature Nate and Ed’s friendship. Audiences see why the two work so well together, and we understand Ed’s brilliance and altruistic motives. Set atop the Golden Gate Bridge, the scene also plays up to the billionaire lifestyle we would expect from such eccentric and powerful gentlemen.
When the pair successfully renders Tunisia’s power grid inoperable and effect their “social engineering” to remove the existing government in a bloodless coup, the US Government reveals it wanted to negotiate with the existing regime while keeping them in power. This doesn’t bode well with Ed, and we see that he suspected this course of action.
With the government’s true intention revealed, Ed engineers an escape that sees the servers melted, the company’s money liquidated, and Ed’s disappearance to Tunisia. Nate is left to handle the aftermath and pick up the pieces after Ed’s actions. But could this all be part of the plan, too?
There are many strengths to this comic, and I will start with the most obvious: the writing. The creative team built a thriller that mingles plausible scenarios that mirror current events with detailed characters who are unique but not at all mundane. When Nate presses Ed in a heated moment and asks the genius if he’s done with his rant, Ed replies, “I’m paused.” The line defines Ed as mechanical and cold, yet the aforementioned moment on top of The Golden Gate Bridge revealed the character to be very concerned for the welfare of the world because of his childhood experiences. Ed’s genius also foreshadows his ability to plot, plan, and recognize patterns. I feel this will pay off in the climax in a moment that will show that he had a plan in operation all along. All I can say in anticipation of that moment is “Cool.”
Multi-dimension characters are but only one aspect that make Hacktivist a gripping read. The utilization of smart ideas within a logical plot framework never pull the reader out of the suspension of disbelief. The notion of cutting the power on the Tunisian government then initiating a free-press movement through printed media sounds like an operation I may have read about in a history book, not a comic book. In addition, Moore’s Law and social engineering are keenly applied to the workings of the story.
To and Herring deliver detailed and well-illustrated artwork to being the story to a visual level. My one gripe was that Agent Brynn Ori looked a little too good looking to be true. With the popular image of the Black Widow from Marvel comics, the beautiful woman/dangerous spy is starting to feel a little cliché. Her double cross on the two felt somewhat predictable, and she needed a villainous black moustache to twist.
Hacktivist gives readers the thrill of an espionage novel and the spectacle of a great character study; it’s the closest comic book readers can come to a modern version of a Shakespearean History.
Creator: Alyssa Milano
Writers: Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Artists: Marcus To
Colorist: Ian Herring
Publisher: Boom/Archaia – Black Label
Release Date: 2/26/14