Posted July 22, 2014 by Hope Swann in Comics


Hacktivist (Archaia Black Label), created by Alyssa Milano, written by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, and illustrated by Marcus To, tells a story that could only be told now, a contemporary fairy tale that strongly parallels events that are occurring all over the world. In Tunisia, a small group of rebels led by a professor by the name of Beya, and his student, Sirine, are offered a technological leg-up over their government by a mysterious group calling themselves “.SVE_URS3LF.” Meanwhile, youthful billionaires and owners of yourlife, a Facebook analogue, Nate Graft and Edwin Hiccox pat themselves on the back for helping the Tunisian rebels. Graft is the charistmatic frontman to Hiccox’s introverted genius, and together they use their hacking skills and the unique privacy algorithms of yourlife to interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs. Graft treats their sideline as a hobby, more invested in maintaining their corporate presence, but Hiccox seems driven by deeper purposes and higher ideals. Inevitably, they are caught by the C.I.A., who want to use them to the political advantage of the U. S. A., but this only provides the impetus for Hiccox to set the ball rolling on a plan he’s been working on for a long time…

The writers were very focused on telling their story, so everything in the book comes second to the forward motion of the plot. I felt that the two relationships, between Sirine and Professor Beya in Tunisia, and between Edwin and Nate in the United States were a bit paint-by-numbers. There were a few attempts to try to establish these relationships and tell the audience about the intimacy that’s supposed to exist between these characters, but I feel as though they didn’t hit their marks very well. For a story about harnessing the power of existing social networks to liberate, I feel as though the characters that could have shown us this power on a micro level were constructed with stereotypes, once again in service of the plot. It’s entirely possible that this was on purpose, but it wouldn’t have hurt the story to have layers and a stronger foundation. The dialogue felt believable, and rarely felt trite, despite the subject matter. It would have been nice if the story had been less about how two outsiders with too much money and knowledge decided to dabble in a country’s politics, and if their realisations regarding this were highlighted more. Despite being told to “.SVE_URS3LF”, we see very little of the rebel group being able to do much with the technology given to them for themselves, let alone any meaningful characterisation. And while Edwin’s sacrifice at the end seems to have been an inevitability, Sirine’s felt like a complete waste.

The art was a bit inconsistent, but served the story well. I would have liked to see more variation in the character’s faces, especially in the way the Tunisians were illustrated. I feel as though using real places like Tunisia and the U. S. A. as the settings may have detracted from their story, as real settings make me search for a level of realism and representation in art. The colour palette was limited, but the colourist was obviously trying to keep to maintain setting by sticking to blues for the scenes back in the ‘States, and oranges in Tunisia; the monochromes did serve that purpose, and made some pages look dynamic.

Hacktivist seems to be coming from a good and well-meaning place; there is an obvious desire to inspire, to kindle strange fires in readers’ bellies. However, instead of delivering an emotionally-strong story that properly represents the settings it showcases, it seems to be more of a contemporary fairy tale. Hopefully, it’s a strong enough tale to make a permanent impression in their readers.

Hope Swann