Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review - City: The Mind in the Machine #1

"Golden Shield? That's a bit 'Captain America' isn't it?"

How much observation are you content with in order to stay safe? Does the thought of cameras recording your every movement in the name of safety seem like a good thing to you? And what if it's done with no human supervision? Something like that is very possible and even somewhat plausible in City: The Mind in the Machine #1 from IDW Entertainment. The first issue is written by Eric Garcia, illustrated by Javier Fernandez, colored by Mark Englert and Felix Serrano and lettered by Troy Peteri.

Ben is a programming genius, having channeled his programming prowess into his latest creation Golden Shield. Golden Shield is an omniscient software program tapped into all the cameras of the city simultaneously, which it uses to evaluate threats and scramble the necessary response teams in various situations. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. When it doesn't work, Ben loses his funding and takes another stroke of bad luck to go along with a social awkwardness around women and an overbearing landlord. His life is pretty unfortunate and gets worse after being the victim of a terrorist attack himself, giving him the opportunity to see life differently after the incident.

Garcia takes the rather familiar story of an ever-present Big Brother and spun it in a slightly different way. Typically, these systems are instituted in an effort to protect those who need protecting in a highly automated fashion. Garcia strays away from the system becoming too smart though; instead, he offers a way for the program to become improved in many ways. Ben definitely has the down-on-his-luck factor to him that engenders sympathy on the part of the reader and his plight at the end of the issue transforms that feeling into intrigue. Garcia has definitely offered up an interesting story that could get more interesting as it advances.

The art by Fernandez is ok. Facial expressions are pretty scant in detail, not really helping the reader to understand the emotion of the scene itself. The anatomy is pretty good though, which does help the reader follow along with the action with relative ease. There's a variety of panel layouts that keep things feeling fresh as the story progresses, including a rather murderous first page for an artist with a ton of monitors stacked atop each other showing different scenes.

City: The Mind in the Machine #1 is based on a fascinating premise: offering a constant surveillance state with a slightly different take on the effectiveness on it without human involvement. Garcia's first issue starts a series that has potential to explore some rather intriguing themes that are especially relevant with the continuing NSA revelations. Illustrations by Fernandez are serviceable, with some pages showing great potential and other pages somewhat lacking in quality. It's not bad, but it definitely shows some room for improvement. Overall, City: The Mind in the Machine #1 is worth a look if you want to get into something a little different.

City: The Mind in the Machine #1 is in stores February 12.


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