I dig speculative fiction, ever since my child mind got blown by the 1968 Planet of the Apes – especially the ending. I’m a particular fan of real life being extrapolated into the future – kinda like how we’re living through Idiocracy right now. Remember the old Marvel What If series and DC’s Elseworlds? I ate all that up.
Crowded is a story set in the near future where the gig economy and publicly social, app-directed lives have taken over. Imagine a world where any job is a gig AND there’s an app for it. That’s the Crowded universe in a nutshell.
Crowded is to the world as it is now what Idiocracy was to the 1990s. Both take contemporary life and extrapolate it to a humorous extreme. Realistically, it’s not what the future is really going to look like … but a peek into this alternate future should make anyone take a serious look around and hope that it doesn’t happen.
And perhaps reconsider some of our behaviors & choices. Let’s get to the official description:
Ten minutes in the future, the world runs on an economy of job shares and apps, including Reapr: a crowdfunding platform to fund assassinations. Charlie Ellison leads a quiet, normal life until she’s suddenly targeted by a million-dollar Reapr campaign. Hunted by all of Los Angeles, Charlie hires Vita, the lowest-rated bodyguard on the Dfend app. As the campaign picks up speed, they’ll have to figure out who wants Charlie dead before the campaign’s 30 days-or their lives-are over.Image Comics
You read that right: the crux of the story is a crowdfunding platform for assassinations. Talk about taking modern life to the (il)logical extreme. It’s friggin’ absurd – and it’s AWESOME.
It’s one of those stories that feels stupidly obvious, yet could only have been conceived by one person. The gig economy out of control feels obvious but the crowdfunding platform for assassinations? That kind of detail cannot spring from the hive mind.
I have not read any Christopher Sebela before this but he’s a damn good writer. The story (at least the 12 issue arc so far) is layered and deftly woven together.
At the center of it are two characters with mysteries of their own: why do so many people want to kill Charlie? And why is Vita so lowly rated yet really, really good at her job? They seem to be total opposites so … are they gonna hook up or what?
Sebela takes full advantage of the monthly issue medium, pacing each issue well and dropping hints and little bits of info to keep us wondering what’s going to happen next. Poorly paced comic issues feel like they a couple of important scenes and a lot of filler but Sebela has his craft down.
The art by Ro Stein (pencils), Ted Brandt (inks), and Triona Farrell (colors) is on point as well. Outstanding characters designs (they all look like cool real people), lively inks, and colors with a judicious combo of cel shading & gradients. (Note: I loathe the airbrushed look for shading.)
I’d also like to give a second shoutout to Sebela for the design. Apparently in his former life he was a graphic designer and he made up user interfaces for the various apps and websites so they all look legit. Not only that, he get a shitload of extra credit for presenting the ‘story so far’ info at the beginning of each issue in the form of an app interface. It adds a really immersive touch to the whole thing.
Lastly, this is a super LGBTQ friendly story and all I’m going to say about this is that it might have the best named nightclub EVER.
So far, the first 12 issues are done and collected into two TPBs. Per my usual, I’m not going to give anything away except that I’M DYING TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. So go read the books, and follow the creators on social media. I need to find Sebela’s other books as I suspect they will be good reads.