Imagine you could see the world as you wished through the wonders of technology. An elegant, grungy, mythical, or even a fantastical world is merely a blink away. That is what writers Tim Daniel and Jeremy Holt, colorist Joshua Gowdy, letterer Matthew Meylikhov, and MonkeyBrain Comics bring us in the comic, Skinned #1.
You could almost start this story with “Once upon a time, there lived a princess in a beautiful castle who wanted to protect her newborn baby sister from evil,” except, in this case, the evil is a technology called IRIS, the castle is an illusion, and the people who created it? Her parents. Even in this future world, life as a king may suck.
Implanted at birth, IRIS is a computerized contact lens which enables the wearer to view the world anyway they want. IRIS apparently sets up a background default “Skin” which everyone sees, but people can view themselves or others however they desire. (Their corporate motto is ‘Because Reality is a Disease.’) It was designed to rid society of depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Aldair is the princess who begs her parents not to implant the device into her newborn sister in order to preserve her visual purity, but protocol overrides her desires; however, there are some glitches to this extraordinary technology, as marketplaces sell relief from ghost images and there are apps to enhance your experience. We next meet a hacker by the name of Buoy who immediately changes the default Skin in a marketplace just because he can. When IRIS detects it, the computer switches it back to default mode, and Buoy flees before he’s caught. Lucky for him, he’s been selected to audition for something called a “Life Extra” for the wedding of Aldair. (An event she is clearly not enamored with.) It’s here that our two potential protagonists, Aldair and Buoy, meet for the first time.
I love the basic premise of the story, as it deals with issues of class and social order (two of my favorite themes). The writers have defined the two major characters well, and we definitely know where their sympathies lie. Each panel is well thought out to give us a very clear picture of where we are and whose eyes we are looking out of; however, the use of the “technology is evil” trope is a bit overused, and I hope they go somewhere a little differently in later issues. The writers also have some inconsistencies to work out (or at least explain). For example, in the scene where Aldair is preparing for her wedding, everyone who walks into the room sees the room as she sees it and complains about it. Is it because she’s the princess, so her worldview overrides everyone around her? Wouldn’t they see what they wanted to see? It gets a little confusing. IRIS ends up overriding Aldair’s view of the world, but the computer does so at the command of an underling, which begs the question, who’s really in charge here? Although, I have to admit IRIS changing the scene into something out of Disney’s Cinderella was pretty funny.
The artist and writers have done a tremendously good job with a very difficult task by enabling the reader to experience the different visions the characters have when they have them. This is a comic where you definitely have to pay attention to every panel just to stay on track with the story, as it seems they’ve almost got too much going on. It will be interesting to see where they take it from here.