Will is an avid comic book collector based in Denver, Colorado. He is Crazy About Comics!
A New Type of Horror Story
I Breathed a Body is the new horror series from AfterShock Comics. Writer Zac Thompson's story could not be more timely, as it confronts the dangers of a society obsessed with social media.
In marketing material for the new series, Thompson says "modern social networks are a relentless barrage of provocative content designed to keep us outraged, engaged, and fearful." The series is an indictment of the "Big Tech companies who engender and profit from this vitriolic environment."
The first issue crams in a lot of characters and ideas. Entitled "An Unforeseen Innovation," this first chapter tells a new kind of horror story for a modern audience. The tale plays out in a challenging but rewarding way. The art, by Andy MacDonald, is a joy to behold as the clean lines contradict the sometimes horrifying images being conveyed.
AfterShock bills I Breathed a Body as a "science fiction horror series" about social media, Big Tech, and influencer culture. Thompson spent several years working with YouTube influencers. He was a video producer creating content and attempting to "leverage the labyrinthine algorithms that keep viewers engaged." He laments that since then, "the landscape of social media has changed for the worse."
I Breathed a Body seems to be the story of Anne Stewart, an ambitious social media manager who has helped a social media celebrity become perhaps the most famous person on earth. Whether Anne remains the focal point of the series moving forward remains to be seen, but she is an immediately relatable (if not altogether likeable) entry point into this world.
Anne works for a company owned by Bramwell Caliban. MyCena Biotechnology is one of those companies with its hands on just about every part of society. MyCee, for instance, is a social media platform owned by the company that almost everyone in the world uses. Bramwell's son, Mylo, is the most popular content producer on the platform.
Mylo is perhaps the most interesting character introduced in the first issue of the series. His charismatic videos keep hundreds of millions of viewers engaged. He is a self-styled prankster. A recent video documented him throwing a dummy off a bridge and causing a horrific traffic accident that resulted in the death of a woman.
The horrific video showing the stunt and ensuing accident has already attracted two million new subscribers to Mylo's channel.
When we meet Anne Stewart, she is watching a video apology that Mylo has filmed in an attempt to "massage" the situation his ill-fated prank created.
The apology video is a train-wreck but Anne decides to lean into the situation and push the boundaries of good taste. "This apology will only feed his MyCee traffic. We're competing for people's attention here. We need to keep his fans engaged," she tells video editor Dalton.
"The morality of it all is up to his viewers," Anne decides.
We learn that Anne has been largely responsible for propelling Mylo to his current superstardom; and that she is intent on convincing Bramwell to give her an equity stake in the company for her efforts.
Thompson has done a solid job of introducing the core characters and the thesis for his story at this point. Mylo is a wild card—charismatic but maybe a little soulless. Anne is driven and ambitious and all too willing, it would seem, to keep blurring the lines between right and wrong.
A Family Mystery
The first issue opens with a look back at Mylo's birth; no spoilers here, but it's safe to say there's a lot to unwrap in forthcoming issues regarding the Caliban family's origins. The book begins and ends with a dose of mystery (and some light body horror) that leaves one wondering where the story goes from here.
The cliffhanger ending poses many questions. What happened to Mylo's mom, Alice? Who was the mysterious hooded figure in the issue's opening pages? What, exactly, played out on that fateful day, and what is Bramwell's secret?
Taken as a whole, it's all enough to make the wait for issue #2 almost unbearable. This is a spoiler-free review because the mysteries and horrors contained in this first issue are better discovered organically.
Comic Book Review
Zac Thompson delivers a dense, intelligent, challenging script. This is not a quick-read-and-forget-it type of book. The ideas presented are perplexing. How much are we as individuals to blame for the problems represented by social media?
Thompson's characters are well-defined, and it's no coincidence that there doesn't appear to be a "hero" in sight. Anne is a hard person to root for, given her propensity to turn a blind eye toward her morally questionable decisions. Mylo is a sympathetic character in some ways, but a repulsive one in others. Bramwell is an enigma.
Andy MacDonald's artwork is something to behold throughout this issue. It's always impressive when such a dense script can be interpreted so cleanly and fluidly. There's a lot of story to tell in this book. Most of the pages contain an above-average number of panels, which means the artwork is smaller than we may be used to seeing in more mainstream publications.
MacDonald is up to the task, though, and when the art is allowed to breathe in the splash pages and larger panels, he really brings his A-game.
MacDonald is ably assisted by colorist Triona Farrell. Her colors go a long way toward setting the tone of foreboding exhibited throughout the first chapter of this story.
The letterer is not someone who typically gets called out in these types of reviews. That's a shame, because the letterer plays such a huge role in the ability of readers to lose themselves in a story. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou gets the nod here for clean, easy to read words throughout.
I Breathed a Body #1 is available digitally and at your favorite comic book shop.
- AfterShock Comics
A direct link to AfterShock Comics, publisher of "I Breathed a Body #1."