“When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth"
Writer: J.C. Vaughn, Cory Doctorow
Artist: Daniel Warner
Publisher: IDW Publishing
EDITOR’S NOTE: The first issue of Futuristic Tales will be available in stores this Wednesday, November 7.
While IDW may not fit my bill as the most innovative of comic publishers, they occasionally surprise me with a unique project. Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now (Say that three times fast!) is one of these projects, inspired by the short speculative fiction of the Canadian scribe. Now, I won’t spout off my in-depth knowledge of Doctorow’s works because, frankly, I’ve never read a thing by him. Don’t get me wrong, I read a ton of science fiction besides the graphic variety. But, I don’t remember seeing anything by Mr. Doctorow in my local bookstore or on Amazon. However, after reading this issue of Futuristic Tales, I might have to give him a try, because his style of sci-fi storytelling is right up my alley. One thing to remember about this series is that the individual issues are entirely different stories, meaning that you don’t have to fret about missing Issue #1 to enjoy this issue, entitled “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth”. Cool title, eh! Well, it’s also a cool little adaptation scripted by JC Vaughn and enhanced ably by Daniel Warner. However, two elements hold this issue back: The speedy resolution of the plot and the $3.99 cover price for a twenty-two page story with a five page preview of yet another TV continuation (Angel, anyone?).
This issue, as the title hints at, concerns a systems administrator (Felix) who is having the worst day of his life; the seminal end of the world scenario. He loses everything, but he and his colleagues still have control of the most powerful tool on the planet, namely the Internet. Now, Felix and his fellow sysadmins must figure out a way to control the chaos the world has become through the network they keep running smoothly day after day. Okay, if William Gibson or the IT guy at work gives you a migraine, then this comic probably isn’t for you. There is a fair amount of technical jargon, as well as a heaping gallon-full of sweaty techno-geeks waxing philosophic. But, as comic book fans, you’ll appreciate the storytelling techniques that move the story, particularly the immense amount of panels on certain pages which ratchet up the tension a notch. Also, in an art-form that regularly features violence for the most asinine of reasons, this tale features no macho fight scenes or antics to dilute the technological nerdquake in full effect. What Vaughn and Warner accomplish is presenting an illustrated tale of a near-future that looks very real considering our computer-reliant culture. If terrorists could attack and destroy our normal modes of government, what leadership would we turn to? Would anarchy erupt, or would we gravitate toward the one uniting force still interacting with us during our time in hell? Doctorow obviously feels a special kinship to those men and women who handle the dirty job of maintaining our modern communications and data management, which is why he feels comfortable turning the world over to them in a time of crisis.
However, the way in which the story is introduced and wrapped up in a tidy twenty-two pages left me a little uncomfortable. Vaughn tries to slow things down as much as possible to build-up to a fantastic finish (the Declaration of Independence of Cyperspace is one such tactic), but no matter what tricks he pulls out of his hat, he simply can’t keep this story from feeling rushed. At the end, I was thinking that this story should have been stretched out for at least another issue or two, just so readers can let the events they are witnessing sink in a little. I mean, this is a world-wide shakeup covered and almost resolved in less time than a Twilight Zone episode! This leads me to my next gripe, which concerns a $3.99 cover price for this speedy story followed by a five page preview for the new Angel series. Why couldn’t that five pages have been used for more plot development instead of advertising? The last time I checked, most comics I buy are $2.99 - Why can’t I get five pages of extra story for my extra buck instead of advertisements for another four dollar book?
Regardless of my bitching, this was a solid, original story that will definitely have me hunting for Mr. Doctorow’s musings at my local library. Technospeak aside, Futuristic Tales #2 is a gritty, sometimes funny, ode to survival in a world that is all too real, making the speculation all that more shocking.
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