Technology can be a double-edged sword. The more it connects us, the further apart we can feel when there’s nothing but bad news in the world or we find ourselves dissatisfied compared to someone else. But we still have our privacy despite all the data breaches that have happened in the last decade and that’s something to be grateful for.
But what if our privacy was taken away? What if life was simply about collecting and monitoring data? That is the world of Monitor, a dark sci-fi noir graphic novel written by Damian Wampler. Creepy, poignant and gritty, Monitor plays with themes of connectivity and true freedom.
A cog in the machine
Monitor follows the story of an officer, Eric Maddox, a member of the elite soldier core called the Axons. In the heavily policed country of Seaboard, Maddox takes order from The Server, an all-powerful AI that monitors everything and ‘deletes’ anomalies that don’t conform to its rule. The anomalies are humans called Disconnects who refuse to live in a system that isn’t free.
During an incident, Maddox finds himself disconnected from the system and running for his life alongside a radical named Talira. He’s forced to hide from his fellow Axons and have everything he’s ever known challenged.
Maddox and Talira’s relationship is at the heart of Monitor, with the two of them coming from different walks of life and each of them having different ideals. Maddox always believed himself to be a ‘delivery man,’ someone who had no choice but to carry out his orders, believing The Server acted for the good of all.
Talira’s fierce individualism makes her a supporter of liberty. And the more Maddox spends time with her, the more he comes to realise that his life was a hollow series of excuses.
Freedom vs authority
The themes of Monitor are compelling. Wampler crafts a tightly paced story that asks the reader what sacrifices would they be willing to make if it meant they could have their privacy back. The Server is the embodiment of authoritarianism, cold, logical and precise. It doesn’t see what it does as killing, but rather deleting irrelevant code to maintain order in society.
Meanwhile, the Disconnects are fighting for a world where everyone is free to make their own choices for better or worse. But it’s not a case of saying it’s a classic battle between good and evil. There are shades of grey on both sides and all the characters are nuanced.
The world of Monitor is brought to life by the talented pair of Elisabeth Mkheidze and Lukasz Juskiewicz. Both artists inject the story with grainy, saturated panels that give off the vibe of watching a black and white noir film. The old-fashioned aesthetic contrasts well with the futuristic technology of Seaboard.
Sci-fi fans will definitely get a kick out of reading Monitor. It carries all the best themes of films like Blade Runner and Minority Report and still has plenty of originality.