Review: Unfollow #1
Let me start by saying I absolutely love social experiments, in all their forms. I was a diligent student of Psychology during my undergrad and I was a mesmerized teen in High School when the reality-tv revolution lit its spark. (I’m starting to give away my age!) Like most people, for me human nature in all its variants is a perennial curiosity. I am always theorizing when people’s behaviour confuses me and I love when our art attempts to do much of the same.
I first heard about Unfollow via an article I read on Wired. The basic premise is that a tech inventor / billionaire and creator of a twitter like communication network (chirper) wants to know the true nature of humanity. Terminally ill Larry Ferrell bequeaths his 17 billion dollar to 140 strangers (or characters) within a grand social experiment to determine of altruism or violence is humanity’s most defining trait. What I love about this work is that the author was partly inspired by a Louis CK comedy bit where the comedian pondered at humanity’s luck for being outside the food chain. The author wanted to show that the opposite is the case and set out to use social media as inspiration for this sentiment.
The story wastes no time and begins in media res as two individuals on a seemingly private island, are involved in an altercation with each other. The confrontation between the two individuals centers on the selection of the “140” This panel ends with one of the individuals being chased to his death. We’re introduced to more characters who realize they have been chosen as a member of the 140. The reactions to this news range from the hilarious to the disturbing. For instance a philanthropist heiress sick of the 1% seeks to rid her inheritance for a noble cause, only to discover she’s rich again after her selection to the 140. Another individual appears to be an ex-military recluse who believes he is receiving instructions from God. After his notification of 140 membership he sets out heavily armed, on an assumed mission from above.
The themes of social Darwinism as well as altruism vs rational self-interest were very salient in this issue as it introduced the first round of characters and the premise of the story. Ferrell’s 17 billion fortune is poised to be split 140 ways (120 million each) unless something were to happen to some of the characters resulting in a greater share of the pie for each remaining character. This grand experiment serving to answer the question of the man who initiated it. It will be very interesting to watch the encounter all the interactions among the characters, although at a slated 140 it is questionable how many we’ll actually see on panel.
The whole nature of social media, highlights our obsession with narcissism and competitiveness but at the same time our capacity for empathy and connection. This double edged sword motif is sure to resonate as the series continues. Interestingly the story is likely to be mediated through each character. Possibly leading to a Rashomon like effect. Everyone is the hero of their own story, and their justification for their own behaviour contra everyone elses usually is more flattering than what it may be in reality. This will be another element to watch closely in Unfollow.
The art was different, not what I am used to admittedly but the colours were bright and vivid. There was a serious tone to the art that really matches the subject matter giving it an appropriate sense of realism. The experiment showcased in Unfollow would never gain ethics approval in the real world, but I am more than happy to explore it in a fictional setting. I am hooked and cannot wait for the next issue to come out.
Story: Rob Williams Art: Mike Dowling
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall 8 Recommendation: Buy