Charlie is the embodiment of the gig economy – she house sits, ride shares, dog walks, car rents, clothes rents, babysits, online tutors and more, all at the touch of an app. When she finds herself the target of a crowd-funded murder plot, she turns to Charlie, via the Dfender app, to save her life. Join them in a world where the crowdfunded app reigns supreme, and everything, literally anything can be determined by swiping left, or right…
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Pencils: Ro Stein
Inks: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Editor: Juliette Capra
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 15, 2018
Previously in Crowded #1: The economy has gone app happy! Services are in the cloud and Charlie pounds the streets from one gig to the next. It’s relentless, hectic, which is just how she likes it. What she doesn’t like, and refuses to understand, is why everyone has signed up to kill her.
From the opening page, Crowded #1 is an engaging crowd-pleaser that melds the extremes of the gig economy with a robust mystery and action adventure. One of our female protagonists, Charlie, lives her life from gig to gig, doing anything to earn a living. A ditzy, pink-haired go-getter, she’s flummoxed to discover that people have begun trying to kill her. What is a gal supposed to do except find the right person and hire them to save her!
Vita Slatter, hard ass ex-contractor who signed on to the Dfender app, defends the weak for the right price. Hard-nosed, hard edged, she takes on Charlie’s case not because it’s the right thing to do, but because in the new gig economy that’s swept the world, it’s the only way she knows how to make money.
Crowded #1 takes the idea of the gig economy to its logical conclusions. While Charlie may feel in control of her life, the fact that she is forced to take so many individual jobs means she is at the constant beck and call of those hiring her. There’s no stability and certainly no time to sit and think what the future may bring. So it’s no surprise she’s completely ill-equipped when faced with those who’ve signed onto the Reapr campaign.
Writer Christopher Sebela doesn’t pull any punches in this opening issue. The satire is smart and funny. The essential ridiculousness of the gig economy is exposed with an unflinching eye, reducing people to component parts. As Charlie says, unable to understand why she has been targeted, she is but a cog in a larger machine. That machine, the great god Capitalism, is served by people like Charlie, unwitting hostages to its insatiable appetite.
Sebela has written his two main characters, refreshingly female, as distinct characters. Slatter is weighed down by past failures, while Charlie has all the empty-headed cockiness you’d expect from someone who chooses to live from job to job without a seeming care in the world. Her closing monologue to this first issue underscores that, as her empty threats to one of her friends who has signed on to the Reapr app, is contrasted nicely by the people approaching her sanctuary, drawn by tracing her phone call.
And Sebela nicely lays out the mystery that lies at the heart of Crowded #1. Why on Earth would anyone be bothered to crowd fund the murder of a person as unimportant as Charlie? Finding out will be half the fun, and reason enough to stick with this series to its now doubt amusingly blood denouement.
Special mention has to go to Crowded #1’s penciler Ro Stein and inker Ted Brandt, who work in sync to great effect. There’s a cartoonish vibe to the art that matches the extremes of the world the two main characters live in. The audience viewpoint is typically off-kilter, matching the craziness of the story, and panels are drawn from high or low angles, again underscoring the imbalance of the world both women inhabit. The color palette is relatively subdued, and the character design is quirky without being ugly and is all the more eye-pleasing for it.
BOTTOM LINE – SWIPE LEFT FOR MURDER
It’s great to read a first issue as confident written and illustrated as this. There’s no time wasted in set-up, instead we dive straight into the world Christopher Sebela has built and learn about it as we gallop through the storyline. As someone who constantly scratches his head at the speed with which the working environment has been upended by the disruption of the internet, Crowded #1 serves both as a serious warning of what may come to our working lives if we aren’t careful, and an amusing story about two extreme characters in an extreme situation. Crowded #1 is a great opening to a series that promises great things to readers in the future.