The apocalypse is, by definition, a terrible situation to be in. However, when you add superpowers, an ancient war between siblings and powerful aliens, it gets much worse, as Boom! Studios’ Cognetic shows us.
In 2014, James Tynion IVand Eryk Donovan launched the first of their thematic trilogy of stories, which has come to be known as the Apocalypse Trilogy. The first, Memetic, was an instant hit, exploring information and technological warfare, with a distinct supernatural twist and a heavy helping of body horror. Its follow-up, Cognetic (with colors by Juan Manuel Tumburus and letters by Steve Wands), took a very different approach, going full sci-fi as an ancient shadow war between powerful telepathic siblings reignites in the modern day. (The last part, Eugenic, was a sci-fi ethics piece but that’s a discussion for another day.)
When a tragedy strikes at the Empire State Building, FBI analyst Annie McHale recognizes the pattern immediately. She quickly realizes this isn’t just a terrifying singular event, but something that can, has and will bring the world to its knees. Can Annie stop her brother from taking over the world?
Where its sister series was a far more typical apocalypse, even with its unique set-up and great execution, this story is way more complex. It leans quite heavily into Tynion’s background in superheroes, with superpowered warfare mixed with espionage and a dash of horror.
Tynion also leans into his strengths in writing believable characters as well. Annie is a fascinating protagonist, and he writes her with a desperate pathos, and believable motivations to drive the story. The actions that Annie has to take also take a toll on her emotional state, forcing her to use other means while not becoming a malicious terror herself. Even though Annie isn’t really relatable, but Tynion makes sure we can find ways to get through that, see the spark of her humanity, and relate to our heroine.
Donovan’s cartooning is one of the strongest things about the book. He is able convey the emotional beats right alongside the horror and action. His characters all look like they have fully realized lives off the panel, making many of their fates even more horrifying and tragic. He’s got a great eye for action, and lays out pages that make even the slow moments feel like they’re full of action and movement.
I was glad to sit down with these books this week, and maybe I’ll revisit them again sometime. Cognetic itself is a rich scifi adventure with enough background and world building that as the reader, you want to see fleshed out more and more. I have to respect them though, as they stick to the format of the other two parts of the trilogy. Regardless it’s a book I have to recommend just on the basis of how strong a read it is.
Cognetic is available now from BOOM! Studios.