Image Comics No.1 With A Bullet is more than a comic book; it’s a rant and a warning against the pervasive use of technology to invade privacy and destroy lives. The team of writer Jacob Semahn, artist Jorge Corona, colorist Jen Hickman and letterer/designer Steve Wands drop us right into the action, with the story slyly beginning on the inside of the cover—literally before page one. The effect is subtly jarring, to highlight how intrusive and all-consuming our virtual lives have become.
The story revolves around Nash Huang, the personal assistant to a television celebrity, Jad Davies. For a segment on Jad’s show, Nash is fitted with augmented reality contacts which record everything she sees—a decision that may haunt her later. In this world of tiny tech, everything a person does and says could be recorded without her knowledge or consent, and as Nash soon realizes, she isn’t the only person wearing those special lenses.
During an evening out with her friends at a rooftop bar, the conversation turns to a recent celebrity scandal. A famous actress has had her email hacked and is condemned as a racist for forwarding a joke. Nash has no sympathy. As one of her friends counters, is it fair that a private conversation, seconds of indiscretion, should erase a person’s many years of otherwise good behavior? Nash expresses no sympathy, and goes so far as to blame the victim: Her position boils down to “if you don’t want to get hacked, don’t put yourself out there.”
In the midst of this discussion, a stranger approaches Nash, apologizes to her, and jumps off the edge of the roof. Corona and Hickman present the scene like the worst version of the common nightmare of falling: A hallucinatory plummet that stretches reality, complete with whacked out colors and odd body proportions, story panels suddenly askew. Corona draws the witnesses, powerless to help in any way, as insignificant figures in the background; Hickman renders them as red and black silhouettes, like bloody ghosts themselves.
Talk about a visual metaphor.
A character we’ve only just seen for the first time, who has intruded upon and disrupted both the conversation within the story as well as our reading of it (on a Meta level), becomes the focal point of attention.
This stranger temporarily hijacks the narrative. Besides serving to move the plot along, the incident serves as a point in the discussion the book’s creators are presenting. Although his death (and actions leading up to it), will likely be relevant to the story later on, it doesn’t register on many people’s radar, and even Nash attempts to erase it from her memory. Semahn juxtaposes this fact with the next day’s news that Nash herself has been hacked and embroiled in a scandal. As opposed to people, things that “live” on the internet never die or go away completely, and they can come back to haunt you when unscrupulous people seek them out. We are all vulnerable.
The creators of No.1 With a Bullet want to start a conversation. They’re not pushing an agenda or opinion, per se, but rather presenting a thought-provoking story in the hopes readers will consider the issues raised. To that end, they’ve also asked that readers share their own personal experiences with cyber-bullying, stalking and the like. The first issue includes a piece by Tini Howard (Writer: Magdalena, Assassinistas, The Skeptics) that describes her disturbing encounters with a stalker, and the voyeuristic male gaze in general, as a young cosplayer. It makes for harrowing reading that will likely leave an indelible impression on anyone who takes the time to ponder her words.
Do yourself a favor and pick up this book so you can join the conversation.