Myopia: The Rise of the Domes
Patrick Berkenkotter (Artist), Richard Dent (Writer)
May 30, 2018
As a critic, I’m sure it’s fairly evident that I have a certain amount of ideas I cling to about what makes a good comic book. For instance, one of the more widely-held ideas I’m fond of is the idea that a comic book should tell a complete story within the space of an issue. It’s possible that story might only be a piece of a larger whole, but it should still be a complete thing unto itself, with a beginning, middle, and end within the span of that one issue’s pages. In fact, for all the debates about continuity and numbering that rise and fall, this one fact is the second biggest thing keeping new readers out of comic books and perpetuating the idea that the medium is impenetrable. What new reader wants to pick up a book in the middle of an arc, for several dollars, only to find that book doesn’t even begin to tell a complete story unto itself?
Myopia: The Rise of the Domes is apparently the sequel to a previous single-issue special, entitled simply Myopia. It is billed on Dynamite’s website as a “speculative steampunk thriller,” but only one of these three words is accurate. It is neither thrilling nor is it steampunk, really, despite the odd anachronistic outfit. In fact, its sci-fi trappings more closely hew to cyberpunk, but without an explicit DIY punk ethos or any kind of anti-establishment bent, does that term really apply? Call it cyber-state, I suppose. A speculative work wherein all of the characters work unquestioningly within a system that has clearly and explicitly stepped far past the line that denotes a post-privacy age.
A large figure in the story, looming (literally, thanks to a twenty-foot high display) over the other characters, is the AI Jill. Jill is connected to everyone over a network and is able to speak directly to each of them via implants. Jill is all work and no play, perfectly servile, and presents an attractive female face. What she’s not is essential to the story in any meaningful way. She’s window-dressing, a little bit of sci-fi flavor who does virtually nothing that a standard internet search could not accomplish, privacy invasion included.
The book itself follows the actions of a James Chase, apparently a covert operative of some sort who also happens to look exactly like a man named Bill Glen. Bill himself is dead as of the beginning of this story. Bill’s widow, Molly, works at a company called Formula Media, where James has been hired to…do something. Everyone is very surprised by James’ resemblance to their former coworker, but takes it in a remarkable amount of stride. Shortly after meeting him, rather than being distressed as one might be at the doppelganger of their deceased husband, Molly has secured a date with the man, and invited him over to…spend time with her son? The scene rocketed me out of the story violently. As a mother, I cannot imagine the idea of being single, the only support system for my son, and inviting a stranger to my house to spend time with that son mere minutes after our first introduction. The concept is ludicrous to me. Beyond that, it is terrifying. Worse still, Molly leaves James alone with her son, happily cooking in the kitchen while this strange man has sole access to her only child. It’s an utterly bizarre scenario; this is not how people act, it’s not even a reasonable facsimile of how people act.
Myopia: The Rise of the Domes appears to repeat that trick several times throughout the story. We are again and again confronted with questions that have no explanation. Why does a bird bring James Chase a bouquet of Molly’s favorite flowers as he walks to her home? Why is Molly’s son Matthew inexplicably kidnapped, apparently by her coworkers? Why do the authorities try to arrest Molly? Why does James have Bill’s old motorcycle? Is it still a motorcycle if it doesn’t have wheels? Why does James look like Bill? What do any of these questions have to do with the domes?
Oh right, there are domes. Two of them. No one knows what they are or where they came from. They’re massive, clear, and impenetrable by any existing technological means. There is apparently a kind of virus in them? The virus contains some of Bill Glen’s genetic code. This is supposedly significant; enough for the title, even! But the domes themselves are barely a feature in this story of a man easily infiltrating both an apparently incompetent company and the personal life of one of that company’s employees, despite the fact that the domes are in the title of the book.
I haven’t spoken about the art, and that’s because I’m somewhat at a loss of what to say. It’s a style of draftsmanship that reminds me more of children’s books than comic books; heavily rendered figures that are, for the large part, not very dynamic. There’s a lot of standing around and talking in this comic, and it’s in these scenes that the AI Jill’s true purpose is revealed: she’s a substitute for the act of drawing backgrounds. There is only one rendering of Jill’s face, you see. Rather than draw her as a part of each panel, that rendering has been repeated, stretched and skewed to be appropriate to a given panel’s angle, but otherwise identical to every other instance. After staring at it so many times, I realized what was striking about it: it’s Kristen Stewart. I started looking elsewhere and found a few other celebrities, too.
It’s a frustrating thing to see, given that this issue, at forty pages, was released nearly a year and a half after the original story. Elsewhere, the story features a great many reaction panels; wide-eyed, open-mouthed faces on blank backgrounds reacting in shock to things that are not particularly shocking. It’s unsettling, to see these faces so distorted, and I’m not sure where the blame lies. While Patrick Berkenkotter is credited as the artist on the cover and in the solicits, there’s an additional art credit given to a Ronilson Freire on the credits page, and the book does not specify in what capacity he assists the art.
I kept getting a feeling of deja vu while reading this Myopia, and I finally understand why: it reminds me of Failsafe. The events are different, and so are some of the sins, but they share a commonality, both in style and in the way they seem completely unequipped to handle the female characters that exist within their pages. It is, at least, aptly named—myopic to the extreme.