City: Mind in the Machine ReviewSeptember 6, 2014
City: The Mind in the Machine comes to us from writer Eric Garcia and IDW Publishing. It’s a familiar premise of technology getting the better of people and how much we should rely on technology in the future. It also plays on the fears of overactive surveillance from a police state that wants to eliminate crime but at the price of freedom. The novel plays on a lot of familiar themes, but turns out to be an entertaining novel based on the strength of its writing and artwork.
Eric Garcia has written other notable comics such as Matchstick Men which was made into a movie in 2002 and Anonymous Rex which was made into a television show for SyFy. It’s obvious that Garcia is an accomplished writer and it shows through in City.
In City: Mind in the Machine, a surveillance system called Golden Shield has been developed which incorporates cameras scattered throughout the city and is monitored by people to coordinate police response. Golden Shield can recognize when a crime has occurred but the designers feel its not good enough. They want Golden Shield to be able to identify a crime before it happens but system lacks intuition which is a uniquely human trait. The system can’t identify suspicious people or activities. Golden Shield can monitor police radio bands as and coordinate police response from with human dispatchers, but makers feel that if a human were to integrate into the system and use that human intuition that Golden Shield can be even better.
The main character is Ben Fischer, a programmer for the project that is critically injured in what seems to be an accident. While in the hospital, he is given the ability to integrate himself into Golden Shield which is exactly what the designers originally wanted. Ben’s life quickly begins to change as he learns to use Golden Shield to do more than he ever thought possible. The more he uses it, he learns that he can control more than just cameras and radios. He finds great success early on but the immense power that he has begins to corrupt him and the people who run the city must find a way to stop him. There is also a love story that plays out at the same time between Ben and his long time crush, Chloe, who is one of his few allies.
The plot of City is a familiar one that has been played out in TV and film before. How much freedom should be sacrificed for a government to protect its citizens? It’s a plot very similar to V for Vendetta. There is also the psychological impact of melding man and machine, giving one person absolute power which of course leads a normally good person to turn bad. This drama is all being played out against the backdrop of a love story.
Despite the concept and story being somewhat unoriginal, the comic itself is actually very good. The writing and dialogue are well done and the story plays out at a good pace. It doesn’t drag at all and the love story adds quite a lot to the comic overall. The main character isn’t an evil person and instead of turning evil like you might think, he just tries to do as much good as he can but sometimes he does abuse his power. In the process, he also uncovers a conspiracy surrounding the Golden Shield program that the designers don’t want him finding out about. The executives of Golden Shield use Ben’s abuse of power as an excuse to stop him for good before he can find out too much.
City is technically a trade paperback which was released as a 5 issue mini-series starting in February 2014. The 5 issue run has three different artists who are Michael Montenat, Drew Moss and Javier Fernandez. Despite this, the artwork is surprisingly consistent throughout. While reading the novel, the difference between the artists is not very noticeable but that doesn’t mean the artwork isn’t well done. It’s very stylish and has the “Cyber” feel to it which is probably what the publisher was going for. Each cell was clean and it was easy to follow the action just by viewing the art. The colouring is very bright and dynamic as well, adding to the overall feel of the comic.
If problems could be found with this comic, it would be only some minor issues. Obviously, with a concept like this, it’s hard to come up with original ideas. Readers might be thinking throughout the comic that they have seen this all before and unfortunately, you will get some of those feelings. A smaller issue with this comic is that the main character seemed to have a little too much power.
Overall, this was a really good. It had colourful, bright and dynamic artwork, the pacing of the story was great and there were very few slow parts to speak of. Dialogue was easy to read and also flowed well. Even though City has used many concepts that have been done before, a fantastic job has been done freshening them up and giving them a twist. For someone looking to pick up a new title, this is a solid comic that you should enjoy.