How much power do tech companies have over our children? Kids are more plugged in than ever before. With so many people working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Kids around the world have grown up with YouTube and Facebook as a babysitter. But is that a good thing? What would happen if someone were to take advantage of that technology? Image Comics presents us with a possible answer in their latest tech thriller Thumbs #1 which is written by Sean Lewis and illustrated by Hayden Sherman. The book explores the human cost of the culture war.
Tech genius Adrian Camus changed the world by releasing cutting edge VR and AI technology free to the public. “Technology is Freedom!” he said, before distributing his tech to the masses. But years later an entire generation of children are raised by MOM(TM), a virtual nanny designed to look after the kids while their parents work. That’s what Charles’ life looked like. Known by his gamer tag “Thumbs,” Charles’ childhood was made of long days spent inside playing VR shooters with his little sister while MOM(TM) got dinner ready.
But then Thumbs got good at playing games, really good. Good enough to win a scholarship to Adrian Camus’ school for gifted kids, Fortress Victory. But instead of learning programming or engineering, the students of Fortress Victory learn one art, guerrilla warfare. Now Thumbs lives as a teen soldier, fighting a war for MOM(TM). His target? The U.S. Government.
The scariest thing about Thumbs # 1 is just how plausible its dystopian vision of startup armies really is. Socially conscious sci-fi tends to have that effect. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t likely to take down the American Government anytime soon but Thumbs illustrates how much American society relies on technology as well as how that dependency can be twisted. The book shows us the next stage of a toxic relationship that we’re already in. It’s sinister just how intimately Lewis insinuates recognizable technology into his character’s lives. MOM(TM) is programmed to care so that parents can keep ignoring their problems.
There’s also a potent connection between the world of tech recruited child soldiers within Thumbs #1‘s stark color palate. Most pages are filled with low saturation teals, browns, and blues. Offsetting the monotone are the neon pinks and reds of Camus tech. From hot pink text boxes to the crimson of a television screen, the only warmth in Thumbs #1 is a digital glow of advanced technology. It’s a sharp way to reinforce Thumbs’ and his fellow soldiers’ estrangement from the world, which makes their brainwashing all the more heartrending.
As much as Thumbs #1 devotes itself to establishing a cast of child warriors and their backgrounds, the larger shape of American society remains unclear. Martial forces appear draconian throughout the issue, storming through a trailer park like 2000 A.D.’s “Judges.” But our cast is made entirely of violent revolutionaries. trained as children to take down the United States Government. With just this issue, the moral line between both factions is gray. Government death squads are bad but more information would help show whether this is a society where the government sends out death squads for parking violations as well as armed insurgencies. The grayness of war may prove to be a theme that Thumbs explores in later issues.
Thumbs #1 presents a challenging picture of the future. It’s one where social media and online gaming have been used to tear at the fabric of society. Our main character Thumbs is one of many kids caught up in a deadly machine led by a mad billionaire. Thumbs #1 offers a keen insight into those who slip between the cracks.
Thumbs #1 is available June 5th wherever comic books are sold.
Thumbs #1 presents a challenging picture of the future. It’s one where social media and online gaming have been used to tear at the fabric of society.