Independently Well Done highlights completed and/or noteworthy story-arcs published by indie and small press creators.
Written By: Matt Hawkins
Art By: Rahsan Ekedal
Published: April – July 2016 by Image Comics
What would you do if you were one of the smartest people on the planet? It’s a tough question to ponder because, frankly, most of us aren’t that smart. I imagine it would be thrilling while simultaneously being one of the worst feelings in the world. You’d have the ability to think things through, see outcomes long before they take place, but also feel limited in your ability to do anything about it. In the series Think Tank by Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal, published by Top Cow, we see just how difficult life as a super-genius can be…especially when you’re locked up in a special government facility.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series Think Tank I’ll give you the short version: David Loren is one of the smartest people in the world, possibly the smartest. He works for the government, but is also pretty much trapped by the government and forced to do whatever it is they want him to do. As one could imagine, this leads to the worst case of depression imaginable. He’s forced to create all matter of mayhem around the world, navigate computer systems, crack the uncrackable, and has been aide to his fair share of murder. He’s told it’s all for the greater good, unfortunately, he’s too smart to believe that.
While that’s the overall synopsis of Think Tank, a detail that I’ve left out is that it’s one of the most compelling comic series I’ve read, and in this most recent four part series Hawkins has taken things to another level. What we have here is an espionage/spy/hacker adventure interwoven into a fully fleshed out character driven story. Every comic has this big picture plot wherein we follow along, but just beneath the surface of that story lies this driving force as we follow the main character David Loren.
For some, the big attraction to this series may just be the intricate and detailed missions carried out by David and his government group, however, for me the love of this series is found within David himself. This character is so messed up, so flawed, while being so brilliant that I’m fascinated by everything that happens to him. He’s this crazy mad genius who makes the worst decisions, says the most horrific things, manipulates everyone around him, and at his very core is the most self-destructive person I’ve seen. Yet, there’s always this glimmer of hope you have for him. There just this small amount of a redeeming attribute that you just can’t put your finger on, but you know it’s there. You almost hate David while wanting the best for him, and as a writer I have to say, to pull off that level of depth for a character is no small task, and Hawkins does it superbly.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a more complicated character in a more interesting scenario, and in this four part series entitled Think Tank: Creative Destruction, we see a total breakdown of this character. From the very start we see David developing an attitude of escapism. He isn’t leaving his job, or the people around him, heck he isn’t even leaving the government facility where he lives. Instead, we see his escapism through actions. He is figuratively pushing everyone away, even the one person who he truly loves, Mirra. Yet, throughout this four part arc we see this tension building as David just can’t take being trapped any longer. He separates himself from everything, everyone, begins self-medicating and throwing himself into meaningless relationships, and by the end of this arc what we’re left with is a broken man. A man who’s reached his limits and we the readers are cheering him on as he does horrible things.
All of that might sound odd, and you might not like the idea of cheering on horrible things, however, Hawkins develops such a encapsulating atmosphere for David that you want him to break free. You, as the reader, literally want him to do the things he’s doing because it means David can free himself from the world that was built around him.
Frankly, as I read these issues, I developed an animosity toward the government that surrounds David. They use him like a tool, trap him like a dog, and feed him lies to justify what they have him do. It’s interesting to note that there isn’t any one particular antagonist or figure that you really develop a hatred for, instead you start to feel as David does toward the people around him. Hawkins does an amazing job at making the reader feel trapped alongside David, and as for me it was an extremely wonderful reading experience. I say that because in order to feel those things, they must be well crafted and executed to the finest detail. For any story to pull a reader into the same mental place as the characters they’re reading is a phenomenal feat, and a marker by which you can know that you’re reading something great.
Above all of that, I’ll finish this post by mentioning how great it is to feel that connection with both a character like David and a comic series that has strayed from the typical superhero genre. Think Tank, and really David, has these hero-esque qualities but in a far more tangible and believable way. We aren’t reading about someone with super-strength or the ability to fly, or whatever else. Instead, we’re given someone who is simply a genius, who is put into a horrible situation, and by using his mind he has the ability to do something heroic. As for this four part series, I’d put it into the hands of anyone wanting something clever, interesting, intriguing, or a story wherein the reader is made to feel alongside the main character. These four comics are just too good to pass up and I urge you to check them out.