Today, teens are all so used to being hyper-connected to each other digitally, whether it’s through social media outlets like Instagram and TikTok, or even just via the ability to text each other whenever the mood strikes. Teens find friends and chosen family at their fingertips via computers they can carry in their pockets, building connections across the country and around the world, carving out little pockets of the world for themselves where they can be who they truly are.
But in the first volume of this webcomic-turned-graphic novel series, Incredible Doom, Matthew Bogart and co-author Jesse Holden ask us to take a little trip back in time with them, back to when digital connection was a novelty, available only to those who had the resources: the early ‘90s.
It’s the age of floppy disks and dot matrix printers, and high schooler Allison is stuck at home with her abusive father, a stage magician who has forced her since childhood to assist him with his performances. Things start to look up, though, when he brings home the family’s first computer, and Allison teaches herself how to connect to the Bulletin Board System (BBS). Logging into the BBS feels like her only safety net, and it’s also where she meets and befriends Samir, a boy who agrees to help her finally escape her home, and her father.
Meanwhile, Richard has just moved, leaving his close-knit group of friends behind, and feels out of place in his new town. When the bullying at his new high school starts to escalate, he receives a mysterious note in his locker with directions on how to connect to a BBS called “Evol BBS,” which leads him to a punk girl named Tina. As Richard gets closer to Tina and the Evol crew, his view of the world is split open in ways he never expected.
Together, these two parallel narratives combine for a tale of first love, unexpected alliances, a touch of petty crime, and the connections we make when our lives are coming apart.
Bogart and Holden have woven a tale of teens trying to handle isolation and loneliness by connecting with people online. Feels pretty familiar, especially from a 2021 lens, doesn’t it? While Allison, Richard, Samir, and Tina may be living in 1991, their experiences are still very relatable 30 years in the future. These characters are vulnerable, they make mistakes, they use humor and sarcasm to cope, they’re incredibly resilient, and it’s their connections with each other that will keep teens reading. The ‘90s references (old Nintendo game systems! Cassette tapes! The original Ghostbusters!) and descriptions of what teens might consider “vintage” tech will also be a draw for anyone who’s into a bit of a retro vibe.
In choosing to use only three colors (black, white, and blue) to illustrate this graphic novel, Bogart evokes a kind of darker mood that fits his and Holden’s narrative perfectly. The renderings of black computer screens with simple, 8-bit style text graphics in white or light blue sprinkled throughout keep the story firmly in its specific decade in a viscerally visual way.
Geared toward teens 14 and up, Incredible Doom would be a solid fit for library collections, especially where grittier stories and ‘90s nostalgia are popular. And since Volume 1 ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, keep your eyes peeled for Volume 2!
Incredible Doom, vol. 1
By Matthew Bogart and Jesse Holden
Harper Alley, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 14+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)