XINO #1, the first of three issues, includes four stories about technology. The first, “Hue,” written by Melissa Flores, illustrated by Daniel Irizarrri, and lettered by Jim Campbell is the best of the four. In it, Matteo Mendoza, a blind man, is given sight through some new implants that enable him not simply to see as we do; rather, he can see things the rest of us cannot. At first, excited by the promise of vision for the first time in his life, Matteo walks the streets with his partner, looking admiringly at the world around him. At home, he is enamored of his partner’s beauty, seeing her for the first time in his life. At dinner, they discuss the fact that this technology was a gift, since he was a living test subject for implants that are not on the market yet. This technology will soon be available only to the uber-wealthy. But the implants have a dark side, which Matteo discovers the first night he tries to go to sleep. The story takes a quick turn for the worst. This short story drives home the dangers of being the test subject for scientists who care more about their discoveries than the impact on the human beings who have to try them out.
The second story, “Rabbit Trap,” written by Jordan Thomas, illustrated by Shaky Kane, and lettered by Jim Campbell takes place in 1963. The main character, Albert Raskin, peers through his blinds, spying on a family moving into the neighborhood. They look like regular folk, but Al suspects they may be communists, because Al suspects everybody of being a communist. He is out of work for being too sensitive to the Russian-sounding name of a high-ranking official: As a security guard, he refused this official entrance to the federally funded atomic energy laboratory where he worked. Al is accompanied only by his faithful dog, since even his wife left him. He continues to spy on the neighbors, and what he discovers will spell his doom. As in the first story, technological advances allow for the main character’s downfall.
I am not quite sure what is going on in the third story, “She Took the Air,” written and illustrated by Phil Hester, with inking assistance by Eric Gapstur. The story is colored by Francesco Segala and lettered by Jim Campbell. In this story, the main character, wearing body armor, is running down the street attacking people. As this character does battle, we get two types of text boxes. One seems to offer narration by the main character, and the other seems to give information about the people that are encountered, listing name, birth, parents, family unit, and age at expiry. The narration describes a futuristic dystopian society in which kids are born to competing pods. The goal, of course, was a utopian society that would avoid disease, war, and disaster, but the horror of daily living seems to be the result of such lofty ambitions. Obviously, there is a critique of government over-control, but it is not clear what exactly is being critiqued or why. This story is the weakest of the four.
Christopher Condon wrote “The Chip,” the fourth story in the collection. It is illustrated by Nick Cagnetti and lettered by Jim Campbell. This warning about technology involves a young man who wants to take his video gaming skills to the next level. When offered a chance at “Altered Reality,” young Mr. Peabody quickly says “yes” to being the test subject of a corporation’s new technological advancements. At first, our main character reports an excellent experience, but when reality seems to be impacted by his activities while gaming, he gets into deep trouble. This story puts forth a conspiracy theory, and warns the most horrifically, in a visual sense, against the dangers of technology. The final panel of this comic, and this issue, is gruesome indeed.
I always like the idea of story anthologies in comics; however, the nature of visual storytelling is slow in developing plot and characters with any depth. A typical comic, at twenty-two pages, can barely get a story started, so expecting depth and nuance from four stories told within thirty-four pages is not very realistic. That being said, the stories are not bad considering the page limitations. But they are more food for thought than fully developed stories: Their points must be made quickly and bluntly. Overall, the art is good, though nothing sticks out as exceptional in these four stories. In the end, I can give this collection only three-and-a-half stars. Taken together, they give us pause in accepting the promises of new technologies, and if visual stories addressing this topic appeal to you, then this issue might be one you enjoy.