Every once in awhile a comic comes along that just blows me away. Unfollow is that rare comic. It isn’t often that I read the first few issues of a series and really wish that the entire thing was finished so I could just binge read it in one sitting. Despite generally leaning away from Vertigo books recently (not saying that they aren’t good) this one hooked me from the get-go. Action-packed and mysterious, while being socially relevant Williams and Dowling have created a really cool story here. A story that’s as fun as it is thought provoking, two things that I always crave in a comic, but rarely do the two exist in tandem and work as well as they should. In case you’re unfamiliar with Unfollow, the general idea is that the creator of a social media network similar to Twitter and Facebook is dying and giving away his billions. A computer randomly selects 140 people (clever) across the world to come to his island home and receive his gift. It’s reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s antics (that’s even referenced), but it’s more Most Dangerous Game than Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Upon arrival things start to get... weird. The tech mogul Ferrell reveals that if people die on the island then their share of the fortune gets split amongst the remaining heirs, and if everyone were to die but one person then 18 billion dollars would be theirs alone. Main character Dave seems to be the most levelheaded of the characters introduced, and this issue focuses primarily on him realizing that some truly fucked up shit is about to go down.
There are some really clever plot devices in this comic, such as when introducing a new character their “Chirper” handle appears near their head and shows us what they just tweeted, and how many followers they have. It’s a nice change of pace from internal monologue, but it isn’t overused or gimmicky. It works because this is a comic that is supposedly social commentary on technology. In issue things start boiling over, David runs into a religious fanatic who brought a stash of guns to the island and accidentally shoots the guys’ fingers off. Meanwhile a news anchor who was previously established as trying to run from her father’s trust fund definitely just drowned a dude. Each time a kill happens the “140” app that was automatically installed on each contestants’ smart phone when they were selected goes down by one. Williams just leaves us wanting more, the perfect cliffhanger, this competition is just getting started and some serious blood is going to be shed.
While the popular concept of humans hunting one another on an island is definitely not original, it is a really fun idea for a comic. I think Williams using the manhunt premise is a great springboard to dissect modern humanity, especially if technology gets involved. It’s hard to say where this comic will go being only four issues in, but so far it’s exciting, feels fresh, and has been a wild ride. Williams really nails it when it comes to a diverse cast of characters, so far only a handful have been introduced, but there’s a lot of diversity which definitely helps the comic feel modern. These characters all come from different walks of life, some are already rich, some are desperately poor, but all have something to offer to the story. Most of them will probably die though in the inevitable hunt that will leave the 140 scattered across the island, too bad.
Unfollow #4 Writer: Rob Williams Artist: Michael Dowling Publisher: Vertigo Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/3/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital