by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Aleš Kot and André Lima Araújo’s Generation Gone is arrestingly open about its central theme: the existential peril of disaffected youth. Hell, the name of the series gives it away. Kot is seemingly not content with even that level of obviousness, as he starts to reveal the stunted social lives of his main characters right on the cover of the issue, before we know who they are or even what they look like. Comics are a visual medium, and 999 times out of a thousand, the first thing we know about a character is what they look like. These kids are hackers — their skills, personalities, values and identities most likely forged online where text invariably acts as the vanguard for a digital persona. We’re meeting these people the same way you would in a forum: expressing something deeply vulnerable and hurtful, with no faces to associate with their comments.
Likely, that’s how a number of people will interact with Nick and Elena — just reading the words on the cover as they browse the stands at the local comic shop. It takes the interested party, you and I and everyone else who actually reads the comic, to open up the book and get to know them better. Though, further exploration of these characters reveals what we might expect from the explicit theme of the book: they are disenfranchised, emotionally stunted and only looking for a way to get their metaphorical rocks off. Araújo delivers a wordless six-page montage of our heroes going through their days, and each one is sad, lonely, and disaffected in its own way. Elena quietly works a job that is beneath her obvious computer skills, goes home to her dying mother and falls asleep reading a book. Nick is addicted to his phone, pulling it out between every non-interaction with the people in his life. Perhaps, most sad of all, Baldwin wakes up, works out, reads about the most recent case of an innocent black man being shot and killed, and then works out some more. Here’s how Araújo ends that scene.
The implication being that Baldwin is steeling himself up for some righteous action he never takes. He is effectively powerless to leave the house and actually make his world a better place, even as he has a clearer understanding of what’s wrong with it.
All of this is underlined by Nick and Elena’s date. They go to a screening of Taxi Driver, the progenitor of disaffected generation narratives. Travis Bickle cannot hack the modern life of post-Vietnam New York, just like Nick and Elena can’t quite find a way to connect in the world of 2017. Tellingly, they both succumb to their boredom-driven vices during the film: Elena falls asleep and Nick is on his phone the whole time. After the movie, Elena tries to pierce the superficial armor around their relationship, and Nick swats her down with the efficiency and ferocity of a troll in the comments section.
As we could expect, Nick doesn’t bother to look Elena in the face until the threatening “How’s that?” She almost immediately relents, unable to cope with the IRL cruelty he just threw at her.
There’s also some superhero-y, science fiction-y stuff in here too, but Kot is careful to fold this all in to the truth about this generation. Mr. Akio explains his superhero-origin-machine by tying computer code to genetic code, conflating technology and biology. In perhaps the most Kot-ian passage in the piece, Akio says “We become the stories we tell ourselves.” So, what is that story? How does this generation want to define itself? By the end of the issue, our hacker trio has been cursed with the opportunity to write their own stories, but it’s not clear that they know exactly what they want.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?