Reviews

Review – Hacktivist #4

Hacktivist, the Alyssa Milano-created miniseries from BOOM! Studios’ Archaia imprint, draws to an intense, action-packed close in this final installment from Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzig, Marcus To, and Deron Bennett.

Hacktivist 04 cover

Issue #3 saw events reach a tragic head, and ended with our two main protagonists – Ed Hiccox and Nate Graft, co-founders of the Facebook-esque YourLife social networking company, and secret masterminds behind sve_Urs3lf, a white-hat hacking collective that is clearly inspired by the likes of Anonymous – finding themselves in difficult positions, each having to re-evaluate their worldviews and action plans moving forward.

This final installment picks up with Ed in Tunisia, trying to fix things the only way he knows – with computers and code and algorithms. But as it turns it out, that will more likely just cause more trouble for him and his allies. There’s a very nice scene here where Sirine, the young Tunisian activist he’s been working with, confronts him about what exactly he is and has been trying to achieve. To help her and her people? Or are they another social experiment, an extention of YourLife? It’s an emotionally-charged scene, but a very necessary one. I’ve been wary in these past issues of the idea of a “white saviour” coming in to help the “poor brown folk” and their unstable country, but the frank conversation between Ed and Sirine addresses that by giving the latter agency, and forcing the former to realise that there are no clean fixes. Sometimes, you can’t just rely on the data to give you a neat solution – sometimes, you just need to have faith. In people.

Indeed, it’s not Ed who “saves” Tunisia. It’s not even Sirine, though she is the one who catalyzes the final act that rallies her countrymen. As she points out later, the people themselves are the solution, the future, and they are the ones who makes change a more viable reality for their trouble nation. It’s all tremendously hopeful and true to life, and honestly, a refreshing change from the messiah narratives that are so pervasive in popular culture.

Meanwhile, in America, Nate finally grows a spine and fights back against the CIA operatives who’ve taken over YourLife offices. I’ve been impatiently waiting for him to see past his own naiveté in dealing with the Big Bad Government, but it’s tremendously satisfying when he does, not least because it sees him working together with Ed, again, albeit virtually.

There is a lot of plot and character movement here, but as the comic draws to a close, we don’t get any firm resolutions to these threads. In truth, given the subjects dealt with here, a neat ending wouldn’t have felt right or real. After all, while the Tunisian people may taken matters into their own hands, their fight for freedom has only just begun. And for Ed Hiccox and Nate Graft, the work of sve_Urs3lf is far from over. If nothing else, there’s a firm resolve pervading the final pages that reassures us these characters will be continuing the good fight, long after we’ve closed the book.

The story-telling, overall, has been fantastic. While I question some of the concepts presented here and in the overall book – like the power of bluetooth and the plausibility of algorithms that can somehow measure if a person is trustworthy via cellphone – it’s clear that the writers have done their homework. There are many things happening in this issue, between computer hacking, social network systems, and political revolutions, but Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing are deft in interweaving each of these threads with the individual stories of the two protagonists. Though, while we do get a very strong sense of Ed’s and Nate’s personalities, I wish we could have had a more intimate look into their deeper emotions and motivations. Definitely so with respect to the two supporting characters, Tunisian activitist Sirine and intelligence operative Brynn. The former fares better, especially in this last issue, but Brynn hasn’t grown beyond the one-note governmental nasty. That said, the “we know what’s best” political dogma of control and manipulation that she represents is all too believable. The likes of Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks have certainly taught us as much.

Hactivist 04 PageThe art in this issue, as in previous issues, is tremendous. I love how Marcus To draws people, and he has a knack for breakdowns that balance the fine line between dynamic and incomprehensible. To does have his work cut out for him in the various scenes he has to illustrate – from a charged, difficult conversation between Sirine and Ed, to the complex emotions propelling the Tunisian political uprising – but he conquers each moment with seeming ease. His eye and hand for facial expressions, body language, clothing detail, layouts: it’s all impeccable and fun to look at, whether it’s focused on one person or a crowd scene. Meanwhile, the colouring by Ian Herring and lettering by Deron Bennett more than do their part to elevate the tone and pace of each page. There are a lot of busy sequences in this comic, such as when the video of the Tunisian people protesting goes viral around the world, but the synergy between the entire creative team – story, art, colouring, lettering – ensures that the reader is completely gripped by the unfolding story and not distracted or confused.

Overall, while Hacktivist #4 doesn’t quite match the energy of its predecessors, it’s a solid effort. Given that most of the major climaxes occurred in issues #2 and #3, and that the political themes explored within this series are heavy, difficult subjects to close the book on, finishing it was never going to be easy. Nonetheless, this is still a satisfying ending to a very well-executed and underrated mini-series, and it certainly feels true to the characters and themes presented within. Intelligently written and beautifully illustrated, Hacktivist has been an engrossing, action-packed read from the first page, and I hope that it finds a second lease of life in trade.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (9 out of 10 for the whole series)

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About the author

Yamini C

Yamini is a twenty-something from hot & humid Singapore. An editor here at WOTN, she spends a lot of time obsessing over superhero comics and pretty much every kind of pop culture.

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