Zeb Larson reviews Memetic #3…
Day Three is finally upon us. As Marcus’s dwindling team makes its final lastassault on the compound of the supposed creator of the meme, Aaron comes to grips with his shocking loss and the impending apocalypse.
Good God, this comic ends on an especially bleak note. I guess that’s apropos for a comic book about the end of the world, but it’s bleak even beyond its apocalyptic content. Because this book has been out for a couple of days, I’m writing this review for people who have finished the series and don’t mind spoilers being discussed. If this is a problem for you, I suggest you stop reading right now.
Aaron briefly contemplates suicide before he hears a young girl on the radio and decides to go looking for her. While he’s wandering along, he talks to Barbara via walkie-talkie, telling her what he sees. Marcus’ team finds the creator of the signal in Evergreen, Oregon, where a massacre has already taken place. The creator is an artist who freely tells them that the source of the signal originated with “the Angels.” Human evolution has been all about the spread of ideas, and the sophistication of communication has effectively reached its peak. The artist then takes his own life, leaving Marcus’ team with nothing. The screamers begin forming into fleshy pillars pointed toward the sky, broadcasting a signal all over the world. Marcus calls Barbara one last time to say goodbye, while Aaron goes to join the fleshy pillar and allows himself to be submerged into it. Ever so briefly, he can see and hear everything else, while Barbara sees some kind of ship or monster descending from the heavens.
It didn’t look like there would be any kind of salvation for us in this comic, and it lived up to its initial promise. I can respect the determination to tell an actual end of the world story, one where the good guys don’t win or get away with their lives. Too many horror comics promise just that and fail to deliver, so I dug this.
It’s hard not to be absolutely horrified by the pillars of flesh. Tynion and Donovan wrote that they intended for this to be somewhat ambiguous, as we see that Aaron gets to feel connected to somebody else for the first time in his life. He can finally see and hear the things that everybody else can. At the same time, it’s the willing acceptance of a blank identity, of subsuming everything that you are into an unthinking lump of everybody else. The sheer grotesqueness of the pillars is a testament to Donovan’s artwork.
As for social media and the internet, Memetic doesn’t offer a firm judgment. Tynion and Donovan wrote in the endnotes for this book that they feel ambiguously about the internet and the interconnectedness of human society. On the one hand, it’s banal, hate-filled, and a tool for intense stupidity, but it also gives everybody a voice in a way that’s never been possible. It’s hard to unilaterally condemn the internet as the root of our problems. Was somebody more of an individual several hundred years ago if they never learned to read, were forced into a religion, and never traveled more than fifty miles from where they were born? I hesitate to look back nostalgically at the past, because we risk assigning values when they may not have been there while simultaneously ignoring the problems of that era.
Is this book a paean for a little bit of loneliness? The internet, social media, and the spread of ideas aren’t the bad guy in this story. They’re nothing more than tools, and it’s possible to be more of an individual than ever because of the spread of ideas and culture that technology brings. No, the real enemy at work in this story is the unthinking sort of mass culture that everybody feels they have to be a part of. People aren’t allowed to hold some part of them back, or they feel like they’re missing out on something. Aaron would rather lose what he is in order to share what everybody else feels. That, to me, is the real horror of this book.