Matt-cover-2By Scott Southard. Creators walk a mighty thin line when attempting to produce ultra-topical pieces. On one hand, you don’t want to ignore the facts of daily life and the way people really interact with each other. On the other, making modern technology or recognizable brands a focal point of the work can become distracting, or worse, cheap, thus rapidly inducing obsolescence for their project. But if it’s done right, it can hit a nerve in a way that no classical literature or golden cinema can. It can jab the reader right in the heart and tell them something about themselves that they’d never even thought to consider.

While the goals of such an undertaking are very rarely reached, the attempts are generally fascinating to watch. Unfollow #1 is a flashy new series from Vertigo that very blatantly takes on smart phones, social media, and an increasingly techno-infused culture. (Did the title tip you off?) The premise revolves around a young, terminally-ill Silicon Valley icon, Larry Ferrell, and the future of his $17 billion fortune. At this point, it appears he’s philanthropically dividing it among 140 “random” people (called The 140 Characters –a little on the nose, no?) in a final act of pure altruism. We’re introduced to this concept through a Most Dangerous Game-esque island murder sequence and a subsequent candid conversation between Ferrell and his business partner, Rubinstein, who converse about the financial dispersal as if it’s a scientific experiment or some sort of nefarious plan. Either way, we meet a small portion of the 140 and the floor is wide open from this point forward.

As far as first issues go, this one falls somewhere in the middle. It’s trying to set up an expansive and entangled plot, and 22 pages is simply not enough space to accomplish that. But even after multiple read throughs, I’m left slightly confused about the characters and the crux of the plot as a whole. It’s clear that much was left out and a veil of mystery is purposefully pulled in front of the audience, but I don’t know if enough background has been given to make me care about any of the characters and their newly found (and most-probably cumbersome) fortunes. People win the lottery everyday in real life, so why should I pay attention to a lucky group of fictional people?


That said, the concept itself is supremely fascinating. The method through which Ferrell alerts the chosen few and distributes his money is a smartphone app that shows up unprompted on the phones of the winners. We haven’t seen just what the app does (besides play an informational video), but the potential for dastardly tech-integration is present. Let’s just hope there are more gimmicks up Williams’ sleeve than the structure of the narrative.

The first issue of Unfollow isn’t satisfying or intriguing. But it’s not confounding or damnably uninteresting either. At this point, there are many more questions than answers, but the upside is that the questions are inherently intriguing. Since the plot of this series is so shrouded and the possible story directions so multitudinous, we’ll need some more time to form real opinions on the success of the series. The hope is that Rob Williams treads this line thoughtfully and gives us a smart, complex critique of modern technology rather than a ludditious condemnation or an apathetic dismissal. For now, he’s taken one or two small steps along that thin line, but we won’t know if he remains straight and true until he’s taken a few more.


Written by Rob Williams.

Art by Michael Dowling.

Colors by Quinton Winter.

6 out of 10