Mad Cave Studios’ thrilling cyber-cult tale ‘Under The Influence’ takes on a life of its own!
Under The Influence #1, the aptly named creator owned book written by Eliot Rahal (Hot Lunch Special, Knock ‘Em Dead) and Stefano Simeone (Wyrd, Good Luck) dives into the extremes of the “Like & Subscribe” culture and internet stardom.
After a picture of a young Paul Kozac eating a hot dog goes viral, the now twenty year old social media influencer has to cope with all of the effects that internet stardom has had on him. Feeling like he was wronged by Barnabus Brand Hot Dogs, the company who capitalized from his likeness as a child, Paul builds a platform that allows him to amass a large number of internet followers—through which he unintentionally creates a cult called The Hot Dog party. After a prank gone wrong kicks off a media frenzy addled with conspiracy theories, fake news, and seemingly real consequences, the F.B.I. sends in undercover agent Cara Cole to investigate the cult and its leader.
Eliot Rahal presents us with a character driven first issue, where the main players introduced are intriguing and shrouded in an air of mystery that really makes the reader want to follow their stories. Undercover agent Cara, the audience surrogate, has her own mysterious past that qualifies her to investigate the cultist activities of the Hot Dog Party’s accidental leader Paul. And when the two come together, well, that is when we really start to wonder what the hell is going on. It’s great! When it comes to books with younger characters centered around internet culture, dialogue can easily stray into cringe territory, but Rahal has a clear understanding of who his characters are which allows the dialogue to read authentically and injects humor throughout.
Dynamic art and action is the name of the game here.
Under The Influence #1 features expressive characters and slickly rendered neon soaked panels full of depth. Stefano Simeone, of the stellar Kirby’s Comic Art team, really captures the energy of the story and the chaos of the digital age. A previously mentioned media frenzy in the story triggers a great sequence of panels that cuts to various news and media outlets spreading their versions of the story. The montage reminded me of the quick cuts in an Edgar Wright film. These creative segues are used throughout and seamlessly keep the story moving and the reader engaged. After finishing the issue I quickly went back to the first page to take it all in again.
The art is never obstructed by the letters either, Frank Cvetkovik does a great job getting the dialogue on the page and the lettering really accents the character’s emotions and pitch. The word bubbles guide the reader through the flash and sometimes frenzied energy that the internet age inspires in the book’s art.
The hyperconnectivity the internet allows: news, films, music, other people–a vast ocean of information and content at the palm of our hands and how we interact with it has paved the way for influencer culture making Under the Influence a timely read. And I for one am unquestionably excited to see how these realities seep their way into the book and influence the story and its characters.
Under The Influence #1 (of 5) is out now from Mad Cave Studios. So if you want to check it out make sure your comic shop saves you a copy!
Editor’s note: another great review from Carlos! So apparently he likes titles that start with “Under”. Not sure what I mean? Find out here! Till next time!