Last month I learned of a comic book convention happening in Morgantown, WV. Needless to say, I’m always psyched about these sorts of things being close to home, so I paid the ten dollars to attend WV Pop Culture Con 2014. There were tons of awesome comic book writers and artists—over the next few months I’ll be digging through my spoils—but a few of these folks decided to give me some free comics. Most of these artists and writers are obscure or just starting out in an industry that’s dominated by Marvel, so I hope to give them some much needed spotlight. Granted, I was given these gracious gifts a month ago, but sometimes I have to stew on my thoughts before I can process them into words. The first comic I pulled off my shelf was an indie comic funded by Kickstarter: Suicide 5, written by Jason Pell and illustrated by Ryan Howe.
Even though I read this a while back, I’m still deeply disturbed by this comic in the best possible way. Honestly, the day I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I was done. From the first couple pages, it felt like I had been grabbed into the story and the conflict. It’s like a good horror novel: the goal isn’t to make you feel bad or scared; it’s to make you think about a serious issue. Just how Frankenstein is partly about fearing electricity, Suicide 5 is about the fear of Youtube.
Maybe that’s oversimplifying things. The plot is about a group of friends who discover another friend has killed himself during a social gathering, while filming on YouTube. No one in the room notices for hours, while the video continues to broadcast. The friends are of course distraught, but the fact that he streamed it for people to watch interested them even more.
This group then decides that they can do better. They make a pact to kill themselves with the last person giving each of them a score based on certain parameters. What unfolds is a drama with a ticking clock in the background and the sadness of having to witness these terrible deaths. The characters continue their lives, but their imminent suicide is always right around the corner.
On the surface, the story is deranged and deeply terrifying. Unfortunately, many will avoid this comic due to its harsh themes. Yes, suicide is a hard subject to talk about let alone to have in entertainment; however, just as Dante had to do, one must go through Hell to get to Heaven. We have to experience the darkness before we can be enlightened.
The language of the comic is also interesting. Characters casually talk about killing themselves. They design elaborate ways for them to die to an artistic level while sharing coffee. Each of them boasts that they will have the higher score. This combined with the art style, gives Suicide 5 an eerie level of familiarity and depth.
Beneath the surface, though, is a darker demon.
Immortal, internet fame is what these kids seek. It drives them to levels of insanity that ignores their self-preservation. With the popularity of YouTube, everyone has a chance to become know globally. The drive for channel owners to get views, subscribers, and comments can be a consuming phenomenon. Believe me, I sometimes feel myself getting a little crazy with my small gaming channel. Pewdiepie, the most subscribed to person of YouTube ever, actually disabled comments because they were a constant problem and started to consume him.
The things people will do for this sort of attention is astounding. That’s why we constantly stumble upon videos of people getting hurt, girls shaking their booties, or cats being cats.
Suicide 5 merely extends the idea.
At the end of the day, I’m a huge fan of this comic. It’s engaging throughout and self-contained. It resonates with the reader, long after the last page is turned. The art style is solid and the plot moves quickly enough to keep one engrossed in every word. Honestly, it made me take a slightly different approach to my online endeavors.
Hopefully, Jason Pell and Ryan Howe will continue this sort of work.
Suicide 5 is an excellent addition to any comic collection and can be the subject of scholarly thought. It left an impression on me that I doubt I’ll forget.