Review - Thumbs #1 (@imagecomics)

"They will always use fear to shut you up."

Battle royale games are all the rage and there's something to be said about the talent it takes to be among the best in those games. In Thumbs #1 from Image Comics, the concept of being talented at a game is taken to the extreme. The issue is written by Sean Lewis and illustrated by Hayden Sherman.

Imagine someone like, say, Mark Zuckerberg created his own army of tech-obsessed teens and directed them to take on the government. What would the fallout be? Charley “Thumbs” Fellows is a member of just such an army. Poor and raised by the influential MOM™ app, he finds himself in the center of a war.

The most chilling thing about Lewis' script is that it's not that far off from where society is now. The issue (and series) is predicated on the notion that a rich individual named Adrian Camus created a virtual babysitter that served as something of a Trojan horse to enlist children gamers essentially forgotten by society in a guerilla army. Lewis really sells that premise, relying on the fact that the grip social media has on youths is frighteningly tight and leveraging that grip as a brilliant plot point. Half of the issue is told from the point of view of a crisis situation affecting one of the aforementioned child gamers while the second half fills in details about Thumbs and his life prior to receiving the "scholarship." Lewis uses both points in time equally effectively, pacing the story in a way that feels methodic and does a great job of making the characters likable.

Sherman's art maintains an edge to it that seems befitting of an army of child gamers being tasked with engaging in warfare that has real lives at stake. It's a very harsh line-style that emphasizes scratchiness and feels way more dynamic than it should considering how simple the style is. The perspectives throughout the issue are very unique as well as Sherman uses a variety of views that add even more edginess to the artwork. The way Sherman illustrates the MOM app's physical manifestation is a fairly haunting yet completely appropriate take on a faceless, digital entity babysitting children while secretly testing their gaming aptitude. The colors are brilliant as well; Sherman actually uses a neon pink for blood amidst a black and white color palette that's extremely effective.

Thumbs #1 is a really intriguing concept that's wrapped in a sobering take on digital in society. Thumbs and Nia are two of the best guerilla fighters available with their talents as players serving as proxies for real combat experience. Lewis' script is relatively simplistic yet extremely adept at making the points it wants to make. Sherman's illustrations effectively capture the cyberpunk tone of the book and is sufficiently unsettling in a good way. Thumbs #1 is a really strong first issue (that's even a little oversized) and is a promising start to a new story.

Thumbs #1 is available June 5.