By the time I was halfway through this issue, I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to make it to the end. By the time I did get to the end of it, I was pretty sure that I was definitely going to be there for the second issue.
Part of my initial response to the issue was revulsion, and it becomes clear that Remender and Murphy actually try really hard to make you feel that way. The point of this series is to explore a world where unplugging from the Internet is essentially no longer an option, and, as you'd expect, it's not a pretty scene.
First, let's lay down the plot. Debbie Decay is the only person left in "the Isles of Los Angeles" that isn't connected to the Internet virtually all the time. She works as a "constable" for Flak Corp, an entertainment conglomerate. Her boyfriend, Led Dent, is her net-addicted enforcer. Flak has sent them to find Davey Trauma, a terrorist that uses the "nanopacs" that everyone (except Debbie) has embedded into their bodies to hijack people. He then uses them as weapons. (He essentially views life as a game of "Grand Theft Auto.") Flak obviously views the death of this many customers as bad for business, and they promise Debbie that she and Led can walk if they defeat him. (Conversely, they threaten to cut off Led entirely if they don't succeed.) They eventually do succeed, though Debbie is forced to inject so many chemicals into Led that he briefly becomes Bane-ified. She uses sex to try to make him remember who he was before his addiction: a guy named Teddy (and the person that Debbie has addressed in her monologue throughout the issue). But, he can't. The issue ends with him wanting to return to his "stories," and Debbie realizes that they can't retreat to Tokyo (where tech was banned after the war): her deal with Flak was that Led to relinquish the Internet on his own.
Now, let's get to the revulsion part. Murphy doesn't shy from showing the horror of this world. At one point, Led drags the body of an informant along a wall and a road until his face is completely ripped off his head. All this time, Led is still focused only on the virtual console showing a ton of porn in front of him. Once the informant is no longer useful, Led throws his body to a pack of cannibals. The combination of sex and violence continues throughout the issue; its apex is Debbie essentially raping Led in the middle of the street in an attempt to make him remember that he's Teddy. It's a lot to handle.
But, Remender got me because he really has a story in there. Debbie's longing for Led to shake off his addiction is haunting. It's particularly devastating when it's revealed that Teddy is Led. We learn that she had to take care of her "dishonorably discharged dad the dud detective" in her childhood, and she's repeating that codependent relationship with Teddy. In fact, Davey accuses of her of facilitating Led's addiction so that she's needed. But, it is the future, and Remender lets us know that it's gone beyond just addiction. The nanopacs deliver a plethora of chemicals and hormones to accentuate the experience, to really make you addicted. It's horrifying in part because it seems 100 percent possible that we could really be somewhere like that by 2089, the setting for this story.
In other words, the sex and violence is really a necessary component of the plot, to get us to realize how awful this world has gotten given our inability to unplug. Remender says in the letters column that he intended it exactly for this purpose, contemplating that we can't even get through lunch without checking our phones. (I'm sitting here with a laptop, smart phone, and tablet next to me, and I suddenly feel ill.) I may need this series to inspire me to actually live my life. So, I'll be here for issue #2.
**** (four of five stars)