After a phenomenal first issue, James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan make all the right moves in issue #2 of their three-part miniseries. With emotional character moments for one protagonist, and a scramble to save the world for the others, “Memetic” #2 is as smart and sensational as ever. At this point, there’s no doubt the series is a must-read.
The biggest danger for “Memetic” is becoming yet another zombie story — taking its highly original premise to a disappointingly cliche place — but Tynion wisely avoids focusing on the gore and slavering crowds. Instead, the script emphasizes the time before the slavering: the countdown, the fear, the scramble to understand memetic theory. “Memetic” thus becomes a story of paranoia and facing the inevitable, rather than an emotionally easier parable about fear of the mob. The evolution of the Good Times Sloth, in particular, provides effective drama and ever-escalating dread.
These smart choices keep the book feeling original, but the emotional beats keep it authentic. Few comics can give you three pages of teenagers discussing their love lives that feel fast and meaningful, but “Memetic” pulls it off. Tynion also puts his characters through the ringer, forcing them to make tough choices that match their tough environment.
Eryk Donovan’s work sets the tone for the piece, though. His characters look wounded and jagged, as easy to hurt as they might be dangerous to provoke. In “Memetic,” fury and ecstasy are unnaturally forced on people, leaving them literally “in the thrall” of their emotions, and his artwork captures that complication. In Donovan’s hands, euphoria and rage are both helpless, both desperate.
Admittedly, Donovan’s face shapes are not consistent, but the character designs are differentiated enough that it didn’t slow my reading. It’s particularly forgivable in light of all the chatty scenes, which Donovan switches up enough to keep them from feeling like talking heads. It’s also a testament to his skill (and Tynion’s) that they read more like escalations than conversations.
Colorist Adam Guzowski is measured and realistic throughout, judiciously limiting the gore and blood spatter. Rather than covering the place in red, he uses loud, contained slashes of color that seem all the grosser and gorier because they have such specific loci. I could always see which particular body part had been torn.
Guzowski also does a particularly commendable job with a spoilery splash page near the end, where the temptation to up the contrast must have been strong. Instead, Guzowski keeps the whole panel darker and mutedly lit — and as a result, the page lands like a punch.
Letterer Steve Wands also helps keep the pace. The word bubbles flip left-to-right more often than the panels necessitate, forcing the eye to move and escalating the sense of frenzy. As I mentioned above, this is a dialogue-heavy issue, and the panels could have felt heavy and overfull, but Wands keeps them lean.
At the risk of getting meta and meme-ifying this series, I’ll repeat: it’s high time for you to pick up “Memetic.” It’s quite a book, and the conclusion is just around the corner.