How long do you need to think about whether or not you should give away the rights to your DNA? Oh, that’s right, no time at all. Well, Thomas Hale isn’t as smart as you are. He decided that selling the rights to his genetic code was a great idea.
This is the tale of Mr. Hale and his series of ill-informed decisions. Genetiks is the overseeing company he does research for. While he’s busy playing with the genetic code of bees, they’re working on super shady science things. Thomas does not have the clearance to know what these questionable things are until an employee sits him down and explains some things.
For instance, did Thomas remember the genetic sample all employees are asked to donate when they start working at Genetiks? (Only as a symbol of their cooperation, of course.) Well, it turns out that maybe they were running experiments on some of these samples – probably just Thomas’s, really. Amazingly, they cracked Tom’s genetic sequence, and now they want the rights to his DNA, which, as noted above, he decides to give them.
So that’s how the story starts, and the thought that the reader is probably smarter than the story never left my mind. It’s a shame. Genetiks has this great herd of ideas, but the set up is either so brief or so poorly executed that no proper tension builds through the story.
Thomas’s lack of common sense doesn’t stop with giving away his DNA rights. The most captivating quality Thomas has is the expectation that he’ll make bad choices and show no evidence of any intellectual curiosity, even though he is a researcher at a lauded science facility. This makes it very hard to want to read more of his story, which is a shame, because the ideas in this book are unique and rife with possibility.
First, the hook of having the first trademarked human is compelling. Then there are small glimpses of cover-ups and more intriguing experiments run at Genetiks. Thomas also has crazy flashes during the day, almost waking nightmares. But author Marazano knows what you really want to read, so let’s look into Thomas’ father issues. Or how about we spend a good portion of the book seeing how inept Thomas is at dating? Actually, instead of exploring all of the fun ideas the reader is teased with, wouldn’t it be better if everything adopted an action movie atmosphere? Perfect. We can’t have those thugs in suits to going to waste.
Not that any of those more common elements are inherently faulty. They can be powerful forces in a story. However, even those tropes are only lightly touched upon. We’re assaulted with story elements ripe for exploration and then they simply pass by.
The art in this book must have taken a lot of work to craft. Ponzio takes on the challenge of one of the hardest sequential forms: fumetti. Photocomics are difficult because comics depend on relating an emotion and/or action with every panel. The static form of a photo has a much harder time transmitting that than the crafted comic image does. Ponzio does his darndest to fix whatever shortcomings fumetti may have. He brought together different actors to portray different characters and must have put them through the wringer collecting poses. The photos are nicely incorporated into the page. Characters share the same perspectives, the background gets the same treatment, and the page is neat and readable as a result. The photos themselves are transformed by having an overlay of line work that echoes comic inking. That coupled with the really solid coloring job helps sell the comic as a comprehensive work. Ponzio’s color choice and variety of panels is a real strength in the work. Occasionally there is a jarring photo that doesn’t quite fit the scene, but the missteps are few and the cohesion of the page as a whole helps bring the eye back quickly. I fear that some readers will never be sold on fumetti, but Ponzio gives any naysayers a run for their money. The quality of his work just adds to the frustration of having a subpar story to work with.
Genetiks is probably an average, bordering on proficient comic. The disappointment is more keenly felt because the book teases you with a glimpse into a great comic and then decides it would rather accept a safe story than pursue a bold one.
by Richard Marazano
Art by Jean-Michel Ponzio
Publisher Age Rating: Mature/18