Content Warning: Incredible Doom Volume 1 contains scenes of child abuse, animal abuse, and bullying.
Incredible Doom Volume 1 is published by HarperCollins and written and illustrated by Mathew Bogart. Allison is a teenager living at the beck and call of an abusive father. Richard just moved to a new school where he has quickly become the target of a bully. Samir lives with his divorced dad and struggles with whether or not he meets society’s criteria for “normal.” Finally, Tina lives in an unorthodox situation and spends her free time running a message board and graffiti tagging buildings. In an earlier time, no two of these people would ever have met, let alone all four. But this is 1994. It’s the dawn of the internet age.
As we continue our race deeper into a wired world, there are many pitfalls that we, nearly thirty years after online life began, are either still struggling with or just discovering. Social media has given the cruel and mean a new platform that cloaks them in anonymity from which they can harass and torture like never before. Misinformation spreads at the speed of light, and many people are constantly pressured to believe that their self-worth is divined by how many likes their latest post receives.
While the previous paragraph is extremely depressing, it’s not all bad. The world wide web allows good people who would never meet before to connect. Creative talents like artists, musicians, and even lowly comic reviewers can reach a larger audience easier than ever before. The internet allows humanity to share more of itself further and faster than ever before for both good and ill.
But back in 1994, no one knew what power the computer would truly bring to the average home. It was a box of possibility, mystery, and for some, fear. Incredible Doom Volume 1 captures these aspects of the mid-nineties with skill and authenticity. And how it utilizes its time and place are perfect for focusing on the four characters this book comes to revolve around.
The story opens by introducing readers to the first of our protagonists, Allison. When we meet her, Allison is helping her dad set up his professional magic act. When some kids snicker at the costume she wears when on stage with him, she asks her dad if maybe she could just help him from backstage. And maybe join the band? When her father’s response is silence, she knows he is angry. Throughout the show, the fear she feels increases. They eventually reach the big finale, where she escapes from a locked truck. But after her dad locks her in, he never lets her out. The show ends; he packs up the stage and puts the trunk in the car. Not till they arrive home does he let her out and informs her, “This isn’t your life to waste until you turn 18. ‘Til then, you’re my fucking kid”.
The paneling throughout this sequence, including the total blackness while Allison is locked in the trunk, are some of the most stressful and terrifying I’ve ever read that didn’t involve a violent physical alteration. It hits hard and prepares readers for what’s to come because this isn’t the only such moment that it puts its readers through.
While this moment and others that appear in this book’s pages are hard, they are not done for shock value. Instead, they are utilized to show where the characters are coming from and why they are so eager to lose themselves in the new virtual connections they make. One where no one knows whether you are popular or pretty. Where they know what you want them to, and they can take it or leave. After all, it can’t be any worse than what’s already there, right?
As the book progresses, Allison, Richard, and Samir each receive chapters that focus on showing part of the story from their particular perspective. As they discover and grow with the newfound freedom the computer grants them, they discover each other and find releases for the struggles they are currently facing.
Author Bogart does a great job of delivering the personalities that occupy Incredible Doom Volume 1 with an impressive ability to keep the characters grounded. Nothing ever feels exaggerated or overwrought. With dramatic high school moments like the awkward first kiss, the first time breaking the law, or the stark fear of being faced with a bully’s ire, Bogart’s dedication to keeping these moments firmly planted in realism gives them a tremendous weight. More than one time while reading this, I had to pause my read to compose myself after a tough moment.
As the book approaches its conclusion, the situations in the lives of our protagonists begin to escalate, and the teens are forced into some dire straights. While some of the choices made are not the best ones possible, given the lives some have been living in, I can’t fault why their logic would take them to some of the places it does.
The art style Bogart utilizes to bring the story of Incredible Doom Volume 1 to life is simple but extremely effective. By utilizing simple, often bare backgrounds, Bogart keeps the focus on the characters. This, along with a willingness to place the camera right up close to his subjects, allows the art to bring the emotional moments home.
I also really love the choice to only utilize blue for color in this book. The blue fits the often depressed tones in the book, the softer moments where things are calm, as well as the many scenes lit by a monitor. I don’t think any single color could work as well for this story.
When all is said and done, Incredible Doom Volume 1 delivers a powerful narrative of the struggles of growing up in bad situations and how a nascent technology creates new possibilities for the cast to discover and escape what once was omnipresent for them.
As a final acknowledgment of how well done this book is, the writing of this review has taken twice as long as it needed to. This is because every time I go back to check something from the book, I lose five minutes rereading a part that grabs me again.
Incredible Doom Volume 1 is available wherever books are sold sale now.
Incredible Doom Volume 1
Incredible Doom Volume 1 delivers a powerful narrative of the struggles of growing up in bad situations and how a nascent technology creates new possibilities for the cast to discover and escape what once was omnipresent for them.