Thumbs #1 // Review
A dystopian hero is introduced in critical condition. A twisted world just beyond the headlines washes out in flashbacks brought to the page one panel at a time in the first issue of writer Sean Lewis’ five-part mini-series Thumbs. Artist Hayden Sherman brings the story to the page in a stylish sepia. Though it’s scarcely original, the weird echo of various topical dystopian notes resonates in an appealingly haunting first chapter to a series which will wrap-up around the end of the year. It’s a promising, new story with twinges of political commentary scratching out around the edges of current events.
He’s dying on a stretcher as he’s brought in to the home of a group of young revolutionaries. They call him Thumbs. There is some question as to whether or not he’s going to become a martyr for the cause. He’s dying, but so is everyone else. The background on the world floods-in through fragments of Thumbs’ flashbacks. An Elon Musk-like tech philanthropist has been giving away advanced video games to impoverished kids that have been training them for revolution. The same devices also serve as babysitters with “mom” apps that allow impoverished parents to work the kind of hours they need to support kids without falling into debt. Thumbs survives, but his long-term chances seem about as good as anybody’s.
It would be all too easy to criticize Lewis’ script by pointing out all of the many precursors to his story. There are hints of everything from Philip K. Dick to Ender’s Game to The Hunger Games to Ready Player One. Lewis’ story is reaching beyond its precursors by planting the story firmly in a world of increasing corruption and income disparity that could easily be harnessed for revolution with just the right push by someone in power. There’s dark humor ricocheting around the background of Lewis’ story that amplifies the darkness. The overall structure of what’s being developed here can feel lost in the chaos as the reader is shoved into a very familiar world that also feels very foreign without much in the way of introduction. With all of the details in place at issue’s end, it’s clear that Lewis knows what he’s doing.
Sherman’s art frames the story quite well with dramatic angles, speed, urgency, and drama that seep the reader from one page to the next. As good as it is, there’s a lack of depth to the art throughout much of the issue that would make it feel flat and claustrophobic were it not for the color. Sherman’s colors are black and grey against a sepia tone with shocks of red throughout. The limited color palette gives the story a dreamy nightmare quality about it that feels perfect for the darkness of the story.
A story like this is tricky. Lewis and Sherman are treading some very treacherous narrative territory. A dystopian story that is as politically charged as Thumbs DOES run the risk of veering off into preachy, hackneyed cautionary fiction. The first issue definitely delivers a promising opening to the series. It will remain to be seen if Lewis and Sherman can maintain this level of quality through the end of the year.