by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad
Back in 2004, the Penny Arcade guys were disgusted by the behavior of some people playing Unreal Tournament online, leading to them publishing the strip referenced above. Fourteen years later, and we know better than to ever be shocked by a faceless teenager hiding behind the gamertag “6ftcock” using hate speech in PU:BG. Vile behavior begets other vile behavior, and as long as the bullies never have to meet their victims, that fuckwadery is as make-believe as the game they’re playing. At least, that’s what John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory postulates. But what if those hateful impulses, those destructive anti-social tendencies are just part of who we are, with or without the internet? Gerry Duggan and David O’Sullivan’s Analog 2 dutifully moves the series’ plot mechanics forward, while continuing to mine this thematically rich vein.
We start the issue as Frank and his pops are under siege from the US government. Our heroes are outnumbered, so Frank takes a beating. A literal beating — even takes a blackjack to the face. Then he’s made to accept the Terms and Conditions of Aunt Sam, the head of whatever governing body is about to complete screw up his business. He is attacked, both physically and ideologically, and straight-up loses. So, what’s a guy to do?
This is where things get ugly. Frank goes out looking to pick a fight with anyone who obviously disagrees with him. So he finds a dude tagging a subway booth with a gnarly swastika, blinds him with spray paint and socks him in the gut. The paint also obstructs the camera in the punk’s glasses, interrupting his livestream, so Frank is preserving the second part of Gabriel’s equation above. Just a few pages earlier, O’Sullivan teased Frank’s desire to preserve that anonymity as he wordlessly evades the eye of Big Brother.
This is basically the meat-version of starting an argument with an alt-right goon on Twitter or Facebook. It might make you feel powerful for a split second, but all it really does is perpetuate a cycle of inhospitality. While it may be taking the Duggan and O’Sullivan a couple issues to establish the main thrust of this story, they’re absolutely killing it on thematic fronts. The thesis is clear — the internet didn’t make us ugly, we made the internet ugly. Is there any way for Frank to not be a Total Fuckwad? Sure doesn’t seem like it.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?