Review: Memetic #3

Quite possibly the first, and perhaps best thing you could say about the end of Tynion and Donovan’s Boom series, Memetic, is that you will not see it coming. Of course, that last sip from this, its third and final issue, comes from something of a poisoned chalice. I say that with intent, that while this book didn’t end in the way I was expecting, it also didn’t do so unsatisfactorily. What I liked best about Memetic, from its very beginning, was its exploration of what we tellingly call “viral” internet memes. The so-called “Good Times Sloth” - or the face that launched a billion hemorrhages - was such an innocuous, even pleasant thing; more importantly, Donovan did a great job in making it feel like it could exist in our world. What followed thereafter was a grotesque culmination of how we, as a society, have evolved: blindly screaming bile at each other in an empty attempt to make everyone else like us. It’s the wet dream of every internet troll, really. And it was fantastic.

Its second issue was less-so, squeezing in what I felt to be a maudlin misstep of Tumblr generation pandering. While showcasing interesting evolution of the attack itself, the story felt comparatively shallow, and showed signs of veering in a way that I thought sapped strength from its premise. Thankfully - almost knowingly - this was all but forgotten in the final follow-up here.

This third issue once again becomes its own unique entry to the overall series, and is definitely the most twisted story of the bunch. I don’t want to ruin the way Memetic ends, though, because I think it does so quite bravely, so I’ll skirt the particulars as best I can. I will say that, along the way, our loose-knit group of resistors encounter a great bevy of oddity, like a feverish overdose version of The Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA, gigantic melting people-meat spires, long goodbyes, strange hellos, slit wrists and a zombie kiss, and the introduction of another very scary apocalyptic avatar.

Memetic-#3-12.31.14One aspect of the book I will mention - apart from its gripping sense of inevitability - is when the crew on the ground finally meets The Maker; that is, the story’s Wizard of Oz-like hidden antagonist, who is cast here in the pop-art mould of Andy Warhol, with a decidedly Seussian aesthetic and a maligned Steve Jobs charismatic twist.

It is through him that we are treated to the point or spirit of this book, and while it’s not the way I thought Tynion might take to get there, it does contain the message I expected. It plays on the idea of a collective consciousness congealed under the heat lamps of social media and online connectivity, but it feeds into something that is nothing less than Cthulhuian by nature. As a result, it’s gut-churning stuff in a way that resounds in a far headier way than the second issue’s failed attempt at pathos.

As I mentioned earlier, Memetic #3 ends well, partially because of Aaron’s swan song as he finally connects with a humanity from which he has felt so otherwise detached, partially in everyone’s comfortable yet sickening slip into compliance, and partially because of Donovan’s wicked art. His work here really drives home the whole blood-soaked funhouse feel of Memetic #3: the unforgiving and expectant smiles looming like a shadow over resigned and empty expression; the base futility in the face of a final image that is quite simply breathtaking, both in presentation and scope. I’ve liked his work on this series throughout, but I feel here in its ending, Donovan has truly achieved his best.

Memetic has had its ups and downs in the scant three issues of its existence, with a bit of spoiled filler between two substantial slices of bread. I do think that it could have used more time and even pacing, but then I’d also be worried it would dip back into unfulfilling affairs of the heart. I do hope, however, that this team (or something very much like it) can come back, and maybe explore other corners of this universe. As enticing as the ending is, I don’t think we need a follow-up (and wouldn’t want one), but a parallel narrative would be fun.

And I would most certainly be there to read it.

Score: 4/5

Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Eryk Donovan Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $4.99 Release Date: 12/24/14 Format: Print/Digital