Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Fernando Blanco
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Cover Artists: Fernando Blanco; David Aja; Jenny Frison; Bill Sienkiewicz; Zu Orzu; Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: April 26, 2023
A naked, tattooed blonde reaches into a computer case. Ignoring a dead man on the floor, she sits on the bed and opens a laptop. She watches a video of a young man using his cell phone to distract an older couple as he kills them. What new world is the young man speaking of, and why does the naked woman smile as she watches him? Let’s jump into W0rldtr33 #1 and find out!
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Ellison and his girlfriend Fausta drive along a narrow mountain road. She urges him to keep his mind on the twisting asphalt ribbon and not look at him so much as they talk. He’s worried about his brother Gibson’s internet use. Both have watched videos designed to shock and provoke, but Ellison believes his brother is immersing himself in something that could ruin his life. Fausta teases Ellison, calling him and his brother Edgelords. But then she looks at what Gibson has posted on social media and realizes Ellison was right to worry.
Meanwhile, Gabriel watches TV in his sleek, modern apartment. A report on Gibson’s actions prompts Gabriel to contact people he hasn’t seen in years. Once they worked together as software developers. They created something called W0rldtr33. While it gave the team members nightmares, Gabriel believes it might now be humanity’s only hope.
W0rldtr33 #1 begins with an audacious first page. It’s divided into twelve panels. Each conveys essential information about this silent scene. They introduce the dead man, the woman who killed him, and show her setting down her gun as she digs through his computer bag. She seems emotionless, yet she closes the man’s eyes before she accesses his computer. A subtle hint of the story yet to come is that one row of three panels shows a glaring layout irregularity. More pages with tiny panels follow. She watches an online video of someone approaching a house, killing an old gentleman on the front porch, then walking inside and killing his wife. Fernando Blanco packs each of these scenes with photographic realism.
Jordie Bellaire casts the first scene in a pink glow, suggesting a motel room. The laptop casts a green tint on the naked woman’s features. The killer shows the couple his cell phone, which shoots red and blue across their faces. Although the woman’s coloring makes her look like a cartoon character imposed on a faded photograph, the scarlet blood spilling from her—and her husband–is shocking. Ellison and Fausta’s conversations begin with a gorgeous shot of his Prius navigating a wooded mountain pass. The car’s orange paint glows almost too much. Inside, Ellison’s face looks washed out. Unlike him, Fausta’s face shows more color and realism. Sadly, most of these panels in this scene only show green windows, reminiscent of a film set, and the special effects crew forgot to draw in the background scenery. The topics discussed–and the lack of backgrounds–made me wonder if I wanted to read further.
Gray dominates Gabriel’s apartment. His long white hair falls onto his dark striped shirt and dark pants. Outside his modern apartment, nearby buildings blend with the overcast sky. The only color in his world comes from his TV, computer monitors, and memory. After you finish reading W0rldtr33 #1, return the opening quote by Harlan Ellison. It may address some of Jordie’s coloring choices, particularly the final scene’s lighting.
As W0rldtr33 #1‘s story pursues disturbing themes, I appreciated Aditya Bidikar’s easy-to-read-and-follow lettering. Bold words suggested inflection. Uppercase letters inhabited spherical dialogue balloons. (The only exception is Gabriel’s memory when dialogue balloons are yellow). Big white letters introduce each character’s scenes. Bidikar’s sound effects help us hear the computer accessing the internet and the (somewhat) naked woman’s rumbling motorcycle. Gunfire seems more stylized than intended to help us feel the sound of the gun reports and the bullets striking their victims.
W0rldtr33 #1 tackles the increasing intrusion of Artificial Intelligence and our desensitizing addiction to violent entertainment in a mature manner. Visually arresting and thought-provoking, fans of Blade Runner and Terminator movies, and readers who still revere Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison, should not miss this powerful debut.