Review by Ian Keogh
Real world ethical and political issues are again the stakes in a second round of Hacktivist, the first round having played out the consequences of divergent opinions as to how the world should change. Technological entrepreneur Nate Graft has metaphorical blood on his hands at the end of Volume One, and plenty believe that blood to be real.
That first volume was a fast-paced thriller, and the formula is repeated while the plot changes slightly. Despite her name featuring on the cover credits, inside Alyssa Milano is only noted as “creator”, leaving screenwriters Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing to do the heavy lifting this time. They explore the idea of a hacking group’s anonymity technically allowing anyone to use their name, and if they’re good enough they can usurp the people previously utilising that name, in the process going far further. However, the depth is added by ensuring the person responsible is someone who sees through the system and knows people are deceived and exploited, but who puts in the hours helping the lost and disenfranchised the best they can.
Marcus To’s art is strong on storytelling and supplying the necessary background without swamping the panels with distracting detail. As before, though, his loose style isn’t the most effective at distinguishing people facially, but this time there’s the assurance they can be recognised by other means. There should be some recognition, however, about how difficult it is to make a bunch of people sitting at keyboards changing the world look interesting, and To manages that.
Maybe the first volume was criticised for playing fast and loose with technology for story purposes, but there’s a definite increase in the technological information dumps. It occurs in staged settings like Graft’s appearance at a conference, and instead of validating what’s happening as intended, it’s an information overload. The majority of readers just don’t need this much technical detail. Annoying though this is, it doesn’t sink the plot, which becomes an ethical spotlight on what spurs people to rage against the system. Is it shaking the tree, or is really about about a form of power? Kelly and Lanzing, though, ensure people are true to themselves throughout, although that might not at first be apparent.
Hacktivist Volume Two ends with full disclosure and means to prompt Volume Three if there’s a demand. There doesn’t seem to have been, but this is another decent thriller with surprises along the way, except you really need to have read the first story.