Imagine a future where you are able to legally download a comic for free, and that comic is actually made by creators you like and respect. Then imagine you can share that download as much as you like, sending and linking to it, and you even have the ability to repurpose aspects of this creation so long as you do so in the same free nature. Now imagine this future is now because it’s exactly how “Vision Machine” has been handled. It’s all the more interesting because this free distribution model is almost a real-life practice of the theory expounded in the comic.
Buddy, Dave, and Jane are three budding filmmakers whose worlds are irrevocably changed by the emergence of the technological sensation, the iEye. These sunglasses give users the ability to record and edit what they see in real time. Eventually, these devices become a constant within society, and soon create their own virtual societies and rules. Control and pirating become large issues, especially made more so important because the iEyes have become such an integral aspect of society and simple day-to-day living.
Pak toes a fine line between social commentary and social parody. The craziest aspects, the parts that feel like hilarious lunacy, are actually based quite closely on what has happened in the real world. Governments do exert control over technology and its uses, people do retire into virtual spaces and never leave their homes or bother to bathe, and people will always find new ways to use and abuse the scientific breakthroughs made common to the public.
The characters are interesting ciphers but Pak is most interesting when he’s writing something that has meaning, and what he has to say here holds so much meaning. Allusions to real world science and technological issues are apparent but Pak is also talking about the future. We live in an age where personal devices like the iPhone become ubiquitous so quickly and further application and legislature has to sprint to keep up with the ability of those using these things on the front line. Here we get characters who affect this narrative and so make it personal and striking in tone.
Silva’s art is so smooth and clean you’ll expect characters to slip off the page. There’s simplicity to his designs and layouts but also a crisp quality that makes it all too simple to digest. Silva doesn’t intrude on the story and when he does something amazing with an idea or a page you stop and enjoy it but it never breaks up the flow of the tale. This comic is exactly how a free comic should look: amazing.
If you don’t have time to check out “Vision Machine” for free, then perhaps your faith towards comics needs a boost. This tale would be a bargain at $2.99 a month, so to see Pak put his money where his mouth is and ship this digitally for free is a feat, and I wonder what type of effect it will have on other creators. (You can download the entire trade paperback as a PDF here. It is not available otherwise.)
There’s a wry smile behind the whole concept of this tale of technology gone askew, but it’s the sort of smile of one who knows better but fears the majority won’t listen. And history proves they usually don't. A cautionary tale that really speaks to the current generation, I hope people read this book and think about how it applies to their lives. This comic warns of so much for so many and does so brilliantly, it’s a haunting vision of hope, if you can find it.