Who’s the Victim Here? (No 1 With a Bullet #2 Review)

Nash deals with the fallout of her sex tape scandal both professionally and personally. The media turns her into the monster, and the men turn her into an object.

NO 1 WITH A BULLET #2
Writer: Jacob Semahn
Artist: Jorge Corona
Cover Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Jen Hickman
Publisher: Image Comics

What You Need To Know:

In the not too distant future, a social media addicted 20-something named Nash Huang deals with a series of circumstantial suicides happening around her while also being the victim of an internet hacker, who has released a non-consensual sex tape, starring her, to the world.

What You’ll Find Out:

The opening scene takes place in the fallout of Nash’s sex tape scandal, illustrating both her personal and professional lives falling apart. While a corporate lawyer reminds Nash she has signed a Moral Clause and a Non-Disclosure Agreement as part of her hiring packet, it is revealed the video came from the Jad Davies Show server, and the hacker accessed the studio’s files.

Meanwhile, Violet, Nash’s girlfriend, breaks down and admits that while she understands this isn’t Nash’s fault, it’s just hard to come to terms with. Violet confirms that the tape was filmed before they were together, then decides she needs some space, backs a bag, and leaves. Nash cries as she professes her love for Violet to an empty room.

The following pages detail the public reaction to Nash’s video leak. Everything from media outrage, deconstructions claiming Nash as an attention seeking slut, gross male harassment, joking monologues on the late night shows, and even slut-shaming from other women.

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A week later, Nash hasn’t left her apartment out of shame. Her friend Sarah enters her home via a special lock Nash has installed that can be activated with an app called Ding Dong. Sarah comments on the smell and prompts Nash to get up and get dressed for Brunch.

After Nash gets showered and cleaned up, they go out. Nash is leered at by several passers-by as she walks down the street, prompting her desire to go home. Sarah remarks she has made a reservation for a table through an app for the two of them in the back of the restaurant in a private corner. No fear of being bothered.

Upon arriving, a few of the patrons murmur on Nash’s new found fame. One man says that it’s awful what happened, but that “not all guys are like that,” to which Nash responds with an insincere “Thanks.” Once seated, Sarah offers to stalk Violet on social media to find out how she’s doing. Nash dismisses the idea, stating that the suggestion isn’t helping and that, in fact, is a reflection of the situation she has found herself in.

Nash recounts a story of a girl from her high school who had a similar scandal. Teresa was humiliated when a sex tape of her got around to the entire school. The other students would catch her looking at the pictures of the man who released the tape in a trophy case in the hall. Nash recalls asking her why she always looked into the case, to which Teresa replies that she is looking at the reflection in the glass to make sure no one is behind her, ready to humiliate her again. Nash recounts not understanding this at the time, but now sympathizing with the girl.

Leaving the restaurant, Nash and Sarah are ambushed by paparazzi requesting a statement from Nash, who quickly stumbles over and asks the men to leave her alone. Nash makes the evening episode of “NLZ” where she is once again humiliated and objectified. While watching the show, Nash sees a message from @mancomesaround, advising she be more careful next time. In a fury, Nash reprimands the online troll, agreeing she should make sure every man has his eyes closed in order to make sure this never happens again and sarcastically requests further mansplaining.

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A dark thought comes to Nash, and she decides she needs a drink. Running to the nearby gas station, she notices Vanessa Green on TV, commenting on her own recent scandals. When asked about Nash’s plight, Vanessa sympathizes and says that she should fight back, make the man who humiliated her accountable, and then “burn him to the *bleep*ing ground.”

In a fury, Nash goes home and starts a public live stream. She affirms that while she feels she owes no explanation, she has decided to make her position heard. She clarifies the reason she hasn’t spoken out was due to her non-disclosure agreement, and her desire to stay out of court. She reveals the man in the sex tape is her boss, Jad Davies, and expresses her desire to drag him into the media storm she has endured.

Several commenters rebuke the idea, suggesting Nash is only doing this to extend her 15 minutes of fame. In the middle of the night, Nash checks the comments, noticing several commenters have taken note of the man hiding in the closet behind her, suggesting it is her publicist and this is all a stunt. Nash checks the video to see a figure peeking at her from behind.

Quickly grabbing a bat, she moves towards her living room to confirm the figure is all in her imagination. Entering her living room, she finds the invader is gone, but that they have left an ominous message in what appears to be blood on the wall: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

What Just Happened?

Once again Semahn pulls no punches in his satirical horror story. The biggest theme of the issue lies in the treatment of Nash as a woman. Objectified, belittled, and dehumanized, Nash has now become an idea that the public has broken down, oversimplified, and made digestible for consumption. Forgetting the humanity of its subject, the media has turned Nash into water cooler conversation, leaving only a surface level interpretations that too eerily reflects our consumption of celebrity gossip and news.

In another gross reflection of culture, Nash is subjected to contractual jargon reminding her of obligations for morality in her employment. Too often corporations overlook harassment or sexual misconduct in favor of maintaining good public relations or saving talent. Only now are we witnessing history as Hollywood starts to say “no more.” Nash’s humanity is ripped from her as a corporate lawyer rattles off jargon and reminds her that her job is now at stake for something completely beyond her control. Of course, her boss is not subjected to the same treatment. In a male-dominated industry (and world), such accountability is often forgotten. Jad is the one who created the video, and he can’t so much as look at Nash during the meeting. His power dynamic is protected by the contract Nash has signed. While Nash will be sure to have some legal ramifications for her outing of Jad as the video’s creator, she is drawing a line in the sand similar to those in Hollywood in the current news.

While the issue definitely reflects a lot of low points, the hardest and most heartbreaking comes in the form of Nash’s story about Teresa. The story illustrates the sudden turn from youthful innocence to uneasy anxiety a victim of these situations can inhabit.  Too often can these stories turn a woman’s perception of the world upside down, leaving them feeling vulnerable. This is what makes comments like “not all guys,” and careless explanations from mansplainers feel like a slap in the face.

While modern technology has greatly improved the standard of life, it is not always as great as it seems. We trade off convenience for some forms of safety. The lock Nash uses in her apartment is a perfect example. While it allows her friend the ability to enter her apartment, it also allows the hooded figure hiding in her closet entry. Our constant oversharing through technology can lead to dire effects. Another strong theme in No 1 With a Bullet. 

Corona’s art is given some room to breathe this issue, and he shines for the better. The pages reflecting public and media reaction to Nash are so beautifully and uniquely rendered. A highlight of an already slam dunk issue. While highly stylized, the art fits in with the satirical nature of the book and enhances the experience of entering a distorted possible future. 

Overall, this issue is another great example of art imitating life. Semahn has taken a clear stance on internet bullying and harassment and has poured that into his comic. More interesting plot lines are sure to come involving the stalking aspects that have only been hinted at up until the penultimate page of this issue. The overall themes will surely have an impact on anyone living in today’s social media culture.

Rating: 9.2/10

Final Thought: The second issue of No 1 With a Bullet gets a little more personal. Introducing a culture that is a funhouse mirror to our own, we are given an in-depth look at how media and gossip can affect the individual. More importantly, we see the dehumanization of a woman. A subject all too many people are apt to ignore, Semahn pulls the ugly culture into the light and has no qualms about reflecting that mirror back on us.

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