Near-future speculative fiction often doesn’t last. If you make something too grounded in the present, or the very near future…let’s face it, reality is going to roll right over it, and eventually you forget it. I’m sure we’ve seen stories from the 1960s through 1980s which speculated about life in the 2000s and 2010s, and they’re largely forgotten. Back to the Future Part II is the odd man out of the trilogy for a number of reasons–its vision of 2015 is downright silly now.
Analog, from Gerry Duggan and David O’Sullivan, risks going into that territory, looking at a hypothetical 2024 where the entire internet was doxxed sometime in 2018 or so, and everyone’s secrets became embarassingly public. The world has split into two maddening cultures: one which doesn’t give a hoot about their information being public, and the other which is possessed by perpetual anti-technology paranoia. Some willingly have sex in the streets; others refuse to let technology anywhere near them.
Caught in the middle is Jack McGinnis, a prototypical morally grey, Sam Spade type who runs information for people out of sight of technology. He still drives a car, delivers information by paper, and doesn’t want to know what his cargo is. Meanwhile, somebody is out to get Jack, and even keeping himself off the radar doesn’t immunize him from people trying to track him down for what he does for a living.
Analog at least takes a decent concept–exploring a world where there’s too much information and privacy is dead–and begins to explore where that goes. What’s missing in this first issue is sufficient worldbuilding: what’s it like six years in this horrible future? How have politics, media, and basic human relationships changed? There’s interesting clues in the background, but not a whole lot offered yet. I assume Duggan will be exploring more of this in future issues. It’s the nature of “writing for the trade” that we don’t get everything in a single issue anymore. Still, I can’t help but remember how “Days of Future Past” unpacked an entire dark future in a single issue. Those days are behind us.
Analog is at least fine as a short-term reflection on the state of technology dependence and raises questions about what happens when things go too far and get too dependent on it. O’Sullivan’s art is fine for the book, invoking the noir feel of Powers or Batman Adventures and helping set up a larger mystery for this book. In an era of Wikileaks and public doxxing, it may be worth peeking at future issues of this story as a cautionary tale of where we’re going.
Rating: Three exposures out of five.