In 1999, Gabriel and his friends discovered the Undernet, a secret architecture to the Internet. They charted their exploration on a message board called W0RLDTR33.Then they lost control. Someone broke into W0RLDTR33—someone who welcomed the violent hold the Undernet had on them. At great personal cost, Gabriel and the others thought they sealed the Undernet away for good.They were wrong. And now they will know the meaning of PH34R.
For those who weren’t teenagers during the 90s, then an advanced apology for a disturbing fact – the internet was born in darkness. Dialing in to access the World Wide Web was a late-night endeavor that usually occurred after parents went to sleep and no longer needed to use the phone line. Now, twenty-five-plus years later, it all seems arcane, even absurd. Still, before the widespread adoption of cell phones and high-speed internet, most online activities occurred during the wee hours. It was preceded by the exhilarating and creepy ritual of a dial-up noise that seemed straight out of science fiction. Speaking with faceless strangers and accessing the world’s collective knowledge was an exciting and perception-changing experience – and it could often feel predatory and terrifying. Despite the best of intentions, things that are born in darkness and evolve without limits can take on a menacing character.
James Tynion IV’s W0rldtr33 captures this sentiment in an exciting techno-thriller that reminds us of how little has changed about the nature of the internet despite decades of innovation, commercialization, and near-total ubiquity.
Readers familiar with James Tynion IV’s writing will appreciate how unflinching he can present brutality grounded in fear, despair, and a kind of hopeless remorse that allows his stories to transcend the action and gore prevalent throughout the comic book horror genre. If you aren’t familiar with Tynion, you are definitely in for a treat. The premise of W0RLDTR33 is easy to follow – a group of tech nerds discovered a dangerous and violent secret about the internet in 1999. They choose to bury this secret rather than confront it, and 25 years later, the danger has compounded and now takes the form of a female apparition who manipulates others to commit mass murder. PH34R and the violent cult that she is amassing is an unmistakable metaphor for alt-right message boards and the way that they use the gullible and desperate to commit atrocities. At the same time, the people who pull the strings watch with impunity.
I don’t want to give away too many plot points, but one of the strengths of this book is how frustratingly familiar themes from this horror story will be to those who keep up with the news. The book opens with a brutal sequence from a mass killing – broadcasted via livestream. When our protagonist, Ellison, later speaks about his maladjusted brother’s disturbing social media habits – the reader knows immediately that he is referring to the killer. Tension and dread ensue as the protagonist catches up with us. It is almost a relief to see that PH34R is a tangible threat in humanoid form rather than the less definable causes of the historical violence and brutality we are witnessing in America in 2023.
This book works on every level, a testament to the strong creative team assembled here. Fernando Blanco’s pencils create a visually engaging story in a modern setting with cyberpunk elements that feel cinematic in their presentation when combined with Eisner-winner Jordie Bellaire’s arresting coloring. They are in their element with this story, and every panel with PH34R, a deadly and alluring femme fatale, is breathtaking. Highly recommended for fans of the horror and tech/sci-fi genres.
This book is off to an exciting start and has all of the poignancy and creative energy that made Something is Killing the Children one of the best comics of the last several years. James Tynion IV is in peak form as a writer and W0RLDTR33 is not to be missed. With a top notch creative team, this bound to be on of the best comics of the season.
W0RLDTR33 #1: A Gripping Techno-Thriller from a Top Notch Creative Team!
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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