By J. Paul Schiek — There are really three ways to read a comic book. Probably the most prevalent is as a form of entertainment. The second is in the name of didacticism itself, wherein one hopes to gain much the same insight to the human condition that they would get from a classic or even contemporary literary novel. Thirdly, there’s a group who read comics simply to have an experience. It’s not that entertainment and didacticism aren’t experiences in and of themselves, but this third group is looking for something that really absorbs readers, pulling them down to the very surface of the world the story is describing. Well, there are few enough books out there these days that can cater to that kind of taste. I, however, would argue that Thumbs — written by Sean Lewis (Saints, The Few) and beautifully drawn by Hayden Sherman (Wasted Space) — fits the bill with aplomb.
To be either crass or glib about it, or perhaps both, Thumbs is more or less Fight Club meets Ready Player One. Sean Lewis, however, has gone much further past those works to put his finger on the pulse of what ails the average working class American household, as well as the sociological consequences and extremes of a world gone full digital. Without dragging out the whole kit and building this up from scratch, I shall presume at this point that anyone reading a review of the third and fourth issues of a five-issue comic series, has likely already read issues one and two and has entered the fold, fully washed in the blood.
Issue three of this admittedly amazing series pits our hero, Thumbs, against the rock bottom remainders of his own ilk, those who had left him for dead in his hospital bed in the Camus facility. He learns that his equivalent female exponent, Nia, is still alive, though perhaps not with all her limbs intact. Moreover though, we finally get a look at Tabby, Thumbs’s little sister and his primary motivation for all the crazy action sequences captured in this book. Tabby’s first kiss is an amazingly poignant and beautiful moment for comics. Reading it, I could almost feel the chilly, oppressive silence of submerging one’s head below the surface of a cold, placid lake.
Rather than impart a bunch of spoilers though, let’s speak for a moment to the quality of this book. Whereas Sean Lewis has brought his A game in the story department, delivering a timely and cutting tale of the potential consequences of our current personal actions, what Hayden Sherman brings to the art of Thumbs is nothing short of a religious experience.
Truly. The repeated imagery of descending hallways, walls lined with pristine and shattered video screens, all of it rendered in a pink on green on gray limited palette that is one moment an episode of Twilight Zone and the next a Bladerunner outtake. I found myself almost hypnotized by the repeating pattern in the screentones. As Sherman has demonstrated with his marvelous work on Wasted Space (Michael Moreci, Vault Comics), his style is evocative of a devil may care attitude, but I can assure you, from the perspective of being a comic book artist myself — and only ever so slightly jealous of Hayden Sherman for his skills — every single line is there for a reason.
Thumbs is one of those rare books where every element gets in on the storytelling. From the muted colors, to Mother’s pink dialog balloons, every single element you see on each page is there to help carry this magnificent story forward. These penultimate chapters serve only to harden my resolve to see how this baby ends. If you’ve ever found yourself troubled by the wayward nature of American youth, the various failures to launch we see trying to cash in on their lifelong savings of entitlement points, then this series will very much speak to you. It will take you places, and it will do it on the back of Tron-level motorcycles, crashing through woods and LCD panels like sheets of aluminum foil. As a grumpy old man who is fearful of what he sees when he goes to the mall, I may perhaps be a bit biased, but I have to give Thumbs a 10/10 as a series, and these two issues, 3 and 4 are no exception to that ratio.
Go find ‘em, folks. Find all of ‘em. This isn’t a series you’re going to want to miss.
J. Paul Schiek is a freelance comic artist. He’s currently hard at work on a number of projects, but always looking for more.