20XX #1 is the beginning issue in a new series illustrated by Jonathan Luna (Alex + Ada, Girls, The Sword) and written by Luna and Lauren Keely. This is Keely’s writing debut. 20XX is published by Image Comics and comes out on December 4th. It’ll be a monthly comic, with the next issues coming out on January 8th and February 12th of 2020. 20XX is a science fiction thriller that’s set in the near future. A disease called the Bethel Virus is going around that causes people to bleed from their eyes.
Only 1% of people who get the virus survive. The survivors are given the gift of STS, or Selective Telekinesis and Sensing. The survivors are dubbed as Syms and live in the shadows of the city, judged by the Norms, or the people without STS. The divide between the Syms and the Norms grows deeper when the Syms split into their own gangs, the East and the West. The main character Meria is thrown into the deep end of gang culture when she survives the virus unexpectedly.
20XX #1 Hooks You In
I whipped through this issue fast. I almost never find the first issues appealing. They’re almost always all world-building and slow introductions. That was not the case with 20XX #1. The story starts right from the first page with Meria waking up. Sometimes it’s a little cliche when stories start with a cell phone alarm and someone getting out of bed, but I didn’t find that to be the case with this issue. Meria’s cat climbs on her and purrs in her face. Time to start the day. She’s running late. She gives her boss a call to let her know that there’s traffic because of a gang incident. Her boss tells her to stop by her office so they can finalize the details of her promotion. Meria’s life seems so good.
The creative team does a magnificent job of leaving small details around in the background. In the lobby of the office, there’s a poster that says,
“If you have the following call 911 and avoid contact with others,”
It then shows pictures of someone with blood pouring out of their eyes, coughing, and a fever. A few moments later, Meria begins a conversation with her seemingly good friend Diana. However, it stopped short when Meria begins to cough and her eyes bleed. From that moment, I knew I was hooked.
An Original & Captivating Story
Luckily, Meria survives the Bethel Virus and wakes up a few days later in the hospital. They tell her to look for signs of STS and warn her that after discovering what material she connects with, all usage of STS is illegal. Shortly after, Meria goes looking for her cousin Lucas, who seems to be stirring up some problems in the Sym community. Meria meets a fellow Sym Nuon, who we don’t get to learn much about in this issue, but offers us a few hints at the material that Meria will be able to control. In the last panel on the last page, Meria’s material is shown. Normally, I would spill all the spoilers, but I really believe you should go read this comic and see this moment for yourself.
20XX #1 is packed with world-building, but not in an in your face kind of way. It is peppered with hints and comments that clue you into the world that you’re reading about. It’s so subtle that by the end of the issue you don’t even realize how much you’ve learned about the world so far. By the second half, I was scrambling to get to the end. I wanted to know more about the story and more about Meria. Every new thing I learned seems to hold a new thing I wanted to know more about the inside of it. Laced with wonderful art, 20XX #1 is at the top of my comics to keep reading list. I wish the first issue had been longer, and I can’t wait to learn more about the world that Keely and Luna have created together.