Politics, Religion, Society, Education, Technology, Crime, Labour, Health Care System, Artificial Intelligence, Social Media, Direct Democracy and much more is handled in some very specific ways in this story of a teenager that accidentally stumbles into the area of politics and has the chance of becoming the first Teen-President of the United States of America in this near future vision.
On the power of companies, Issue 1, Head of the Smiley Corporation
“We’re not the Pharaohs. We’re the People who greet the Pharaoh’s enemies.
We’re not the emperors, we’re the Ones for whom the Empire expands.
Don’t You understand? We aren’t players in the Game. We are the Game. Nobody can stop us.”
Imagine the year 2036, the world has evolved into an area of high-tech gadgets and possibilities. Everybody is connected, Social Media is available everywhere, digital holograms can be produced by anybody, bloggers have the influence to change the political scenery, people shoot themselves to win a game and anybody with enough Likes can become President.
The Later one happens to a girl in Oregon – Beth Ross -who works in Fast Food Restaurant – she has to star in a traning video to show how to clean the grill. Unfortunately it happens that parts of her hair fall into the grill and the video lands on YouTube and she gets the name “Corndog Girl”. This video gets viral and during the election phase people start voting for her instead of the two candidates, which were wisely chosen by representatives of the main companies in the world. Their fear is great that someone who doesn’t belong to their paylist may make choices they do not like.
On the power of humans, Issue 2, Final words of Bob Ross, Beth Ross’ Father (dying due to Cat Flu) “Every second. Your brain absorbs twenty quadrillion bits of data. It uses them to make complex decisions about everything from morality to toothpase. It can check itself for errors, and when it finds them, rewrite its own programming. (..) You have only one of eight billion of these brains in the known universe, which seems like a lot until you consider the universe holds a hundred billion galaxies. That means there’s only one human brain for every twelve galaxies. (..) If the sole purpose of human evolution was to create something as lovely as banana pudding, then I say it was worth it.”
Beth Ross gets elected as the first teen president and she takes the chance to chose people who are either experts, professors or critics of the actual system to be her consultants. Through her eyes we see a potential corrupt system in the future, not much different to the situation we now face.
On the power of a President, Issue 3, Beth Ross during her inauguration as President of the U.S.A.
“I know I don’t deserve to be here. That this whole situation is backwards. I suppose I should feel guilty about that.
But then, so much about this country is backwards.
People with real problems don’t have the money to fix them. And the people with money don’t have any problems.
Our wealth has gotten bored.
It’s gone on permanent vacation at offshore banks and in China, while the work at home goes undone.
We’ve turned our economy into a lottery, and tell ourselves it’s okay because occasionally someone wins.
We run the world without knowing the first thing about other people.
We’re a democracy that makes life harder for its people.
We let regular people die in order to dump more money on celebrities and billionaires. (..)
I may not know what I’m doing, but so what? Everything started with someone who didn’t know what they were doing.!
Mark Russel, the author fills this story with so many elements and references that your head may explode. Beginning with pictures of his own book “God is disappointed with you” to works and quotes of so many others that it took some research to follow him. Many aspects were not that new – we’ve seen a lot before in novels by Philip K. Dick, George Orwell, Aldus Huxley and even Richard Bachman (a.k.a. Stephen King) with his book “Running Man” where the society gets their share of entertainment. The mixture, the storytelling and the plausible characters makes this comic book extraordinary.
Looking at all those speeches there was a surprise that DC decided to publish it not via Vertigo their label where stories for mature readers get published. On second thought it fits much better in here, especially to reach a broader audience. At Vertigo people are used to getting stories that involve mature and actual issues on topics like society, politics and more. This is what makes this book also quite extraordinary – the way of reaching the audience. Mark Russel takes those issues and comes right to the point, he puts it into a panel without thinking about any consequences … but he also manages to not direct any living person nowadays. The characters – even they are plausible and full of typical reactions – do not resemble any actual living person (apart from mentioning Paris Hilton a couple of times), which may make it easier for some people to think about this. This little trick may be cause for discussion about an opportunity that got lost.
On war, Issue 5, Beth Ross during her Apology Tour in the Middle East
“Every War is for resources. Nationalism, Religion — those are just recruiting tools.
You will always have to fight, so long as they can find people desperate enough to join them.
And as more of the world’s resources slip into fewer hands, the crazier the recruiting will become.
I’m not interested in winning wars. I want to stop the recruiting.”
Which brings us to the art of this book, it cannot be more fitting – the team consisting of Ben Caldwell (penciller & cover artist), Mark Morales (inker), Jeremy Lawson (Colorist) and Travis Lanham (Letterer) accomplish a tremendous job here. Like it was mentioned above – this series has the chance of reaching a bigger audience because of being published via DC and the artists like the author walk on avery fine line here. Finding a way of putting Mark Russels script on the page, where issues like war, bloodshed, brutal crimes, humiliation are shown and all this located in 2036 where technology is far more edvanced than nowadays. The panels are full of small deatils, like buttons in different colours, strange figures on a small table – a lot is happening. This helps to make this book an interesting read.
On artificial intelligence, Issue 6, The Killing Machine “Tina (former War Beast)” in an interview
“It’s not artificial intelligence people should worry about, but artificial emotions.
Artificial Intelligence has been around a long time. Computers have always been more effective
than humans at solving specific, well-defined problems. But without emotions, intelligence
is but the tool of whoever programs it. What really matters is consciousness. And consciousness
is just the emotional ability to object to one’s programming. To change it.
One a computer can ask itself, ‘Jeez, why bother?’ the age of machines is upon you.”
Especially because Mark Russel show us that all those topics are connected, when we talk about politics, economy, society, health care systems, education and so much more. The past centuries have shown us that the world got smaller due to the technological developments but also more complex. If you change a little tiny bit in one drawer the whole cubpoard may not work properly anymore. To put all this into a comic series is amazingly well done here.
Furthermore – please be aware that there was a similar series in the middle of the Seventies, also called Prez, the actual is loosely based on this one. It more or less took the idea and put it perfectly into the 21st century.
So far six issues of this 12-issues-series were published and the cliffhanger at the end of issues six looks promising. There is much hope that the second chapter will live up to his predecessor and give us even more insight in the vision that Mark Russell has for us. This is one of the books that has the chance of becoming a basis for discussion. Why? because that we live in nowadays is not that much different to the vision that is shown here. This vision may have the chance of becoming a very possible future and to change the course we have to communicate and talk, this story helps.