Rage Without The Machine
The Badass Tech-Noir Dystopia Of Gerry Duggan’s ‘Analog’
Gerry Duggan is a force to be reckoned with in contemporary comics. In 2012, he and Brian Posehn created a celebrated reinvention of Deadpool that arguably paved the way for the massively popular Ryan Reynolds movies. He and Posehn also wrote one of my personal favorites, The Last Christmas, a blood-soaked Yuletide orgy in which Santa comes after naughty and nice alike.
Since then, Duggan has worked seemingly nonstop under his own steam. He’s taken some of the genre’s most “fun” titles (Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars: Chewbacca, Uncanny Avengers) and imbued them with more depth and humanity, as well as populating their protagonists’ universes with substantive supporting characters.
One of his newest series, Analog, debuted this summer but has just been collected into a volume spanning issues 1-5. At first blush, it’s not what I would think of as standard Duggan fare. In the year 2024, a Facebook-like global entity gets weaponized by hostile foreign powers. Definitely science fiction. This prompts anarchists to launch “The Great Doxxing,” in which everyone’s private online info becomes…let’s just say, no longer private.
A murky sort of semi-apocalypse, semi-dystopia results. Things basically keep functioning. The power stays on. Other forms of technology like AI and VR flourish. It’s just that hardly anyone uses the Internet or connected devices, at the risk of ostracism and exclusion. A bartender chews out a young man for wearing a smart watch, saying, “Don’t bring that connected shit in here!”
It’s a provocative and in some ways appealing setting. What if we could indulge our daily fantasies of going off the grid and yet still live in a modern, high-tech world? It would make an excellent Black Mirror. But instead of dwelling on attractive British suburbanites quietly drowning in their own self-imposed tech horror, Duggan takes this premise to an entirely different place. Or, better, a different pace.
Analog rockets us right into the action of this world via the hero Jack McGinnis, one of the so-called “ledger men.” In his “quiet moments,” McGinnis laments his existence or attempts to drown it in a substance. But this isn’t a quiet book. McGinnis gets paid to transport critical documents, on paper, inside a briefcase locked and handcuffed to his wrist. This, of course, makes him the instant and constant target of unscrupulous foes who would do anything to get their hands on those papers.
As a result, this “fantasy” world becomes one in which McGinnis is usually killing or trying not to get killed, often in unconventional ways. SPOILER ALERT: One of them literally involves a towel. It contains all the cyber-noir of a Blade Runner, but with two-hundred-percent more action. David O’Sullivan brings these action sequences to life with his textured and grounded but highly kinetic art.
Duggan peoples Analog with immediately memorable supporting characters, like McGinnis’ half-black, half-Irish, all-ass-kicking friend-with-benefits, Oona. We also meet his screw-loose yet highly pragmatic Dad and the delightfully tough-talking government heavy “Aunt Sam.” He laces his mordant wit throughout. A close-quarters mass-shootout gets paused because Dad doesn’t want the bad guy’s blood to spill into the marinara on the stove. McGinnis attempts to tranq a guy tailing him, but the tranquilizer is expired, so the tail just ends up “shitting himself for three days.” A highly unexpected foray into the 2024 world of AI tech leads to McGinnis insulting a robotic ape.
Full disclosure: I’m a junkie for imaginative dystopias. I could read Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan until my dying day. But with Analog, that rich world is just the springboard for a breathlessly-paced storyline that leaves us at the end of issue five with a tantalizing mystery ahead. And, almost certainly, a trail of bloody towels.