Social media is a marvelous thing. It can connect us with people from around the world, keep us up to date on important news, and let us share great memes with our friends at the push of a button. However, there are darker elements that we often don’t want to acknowledge. In Image’s NO. 1 WITH A BULLET TP by Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona, Nash Huang must deal with the leak of a sex tape she never knew existed, one recorded with the most high-tech contact lenses on the market.

As a social media maven and personal assistant to a high profile TV show host, Nash isn’t a stranger to attention. However, this invasion of privacy goes far beyond an embarrassing drunk Tweet. The leak results in a media frenzy that puts Nash’s body on display for the world to dehumanize. In an era where we’re just starting to hold sexual predators accountable for their actions, NO. 1 WITH A BULLET is painfully relevant. It examines how social media leads us to judge total strangers, especially those with feminine bodies.

Throughout the comic, Nash must deal with strangers picking apart her every move, breaking up with her girlfriend, terrifying distortions of reality, and slowly realizing that much darker things are afoot.

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Under a Microscope

NO. 1 WITH A BULLET specifically points out the expectations we put on people in the spotlight. This constant criticism leads to super fans and stalkers who believe they have a say in a stranger’s life. The comic opens with a crazed fan breaking into an actress’s house and killing himself due to information in her leaked e-mail. We also see messages from an entitled fan to Nash, which turn out to be more sinister than annoying.

Image courtesy of Image Comics

Sure, reading this comic you may think that virtual reality contact lenses are insane, but think of how ridiculous our technology must seem to older generations. Phones with facial recognition, self-driving cars, artificially intelligent robots, the list goes on. We’re already pretty chill with a lot of questionable tech, so the IRIS contacts don’t seem like a huge leap from reality. And because a huge portion of people using the internet and social media have never known anything different, it’s easier for us to become desensitized to the effects of being constantly plugged in.


A Double Standard

Semahn and Corona definitely don’t disappoint when it comes to analyzing how feminine and masculine bodies are treated differently. Social media exacerbates this difference because it’s possible for more people to give their two cents, no matter how little information they have. In Nash’s case, even though her sex tape leak isn’t her fault, she’s still the one to blame. The one truly responsible person is a wealthy, white, handsome, powerful man, and he immediately gets a free pass.

My favorite portrayal of this dichotomy is the full page spreads that show peoples’ reactions to the ever-changing story. At first, people are quick to judge Nash. They call her a “slut” and comment on her body as if it’s an object. But in contrast, people pat the involved man on the back, telling him how “lucky” he is. Even his full admission of guilt doesn’t sway people. If anything, it just boosts his status as an honest martyr of some kind. The idea of a changed man seems to be a hit with audiences. Does this sound familiar?

no. 1 with a bullet
Image courtesy of Image Comics

We know how it goes. A victim comes forward, nobody believes them, the guilty party is found out, time goes on, and everyone forgets. Rinse, wash, repeat. NO. 1 WITH A BULLET could have easily been too on the nose with this sequence of events, but Semahn writes it so authentically that it doesn’t feel cheap or overly didactic.

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Blurring the Lines

In NO. 1 WITH A BULLET, it can be tough to keep up with the distinction between reality and perception. Jorge Corona’s art along with Jen Hickman’s amazing color work guide us through the two worlds. But sometimes Nash’s reality and thoughts become too similar to tell apart, creating blurred lines between Nash’s mind and her reality. Usually I’m partial to a simple color palette, but the differences in each page’s color and composition kept me on my toes.

no. 1 with a bullet
Image courtesy of Image Comics

We could also use the blurred lines analogy to describe how social media and “real life” bleed together. Unless you’re around somebody a lot or speak to them often, you only see what they choose to present to the world. All the pictures, posts, likes, and videos we share conjure up a specific image. And in Nash’s case, this skewed perception creates a fan who feels entitled to her love and attention.

Nash’s story may be fiction, but the underlying message is anything but fantasy. To further shed light on the issue of internet harassment and the right to privacy, NO. 1 WITH A BULLET TP concludes with a few true stories from those who have also experienced stalking and threats from people online. Anyone who presents as female or feminine in any way with an online presence, whether they’re gamers, cosplayers, writers or artists, are at risk for receiving unwanted attention. In many cases, the harassers don’t go beyond comments, but sometimes text can evolve into something dangerous.

Final Thoughts on NO. 1 WITH A BULLET TP

Overall, NO. 1 WITH A BULLET is a fantastic series that I couldn’t stop reading. I’d recommend this comic to anyone, but especially those who partake in social media. The story is a great mixture of mystery, horror, humor, and sci-fi as well, so it’s not cut and dry.

Obviously the message in the comic is important, but it wouldn’t matter much if the characters were flat. Fortunately, all the characters are interesting and complex, making the gut-wrenching moments even more difficult to read. But again, nothing feels gimmicky about Nash’s story. People ignore her voice because they’d rather use her image in their own way, whether it’s for personal satisfaction or a reason to discredit women.

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The fact is, as much as we want Nash’s story to be an outlier, it’s important to let readers know this is a reality for many. We haven’t gotten to the virtual reality contact lens segment of the future yet, but the everyday harassment women have to deal with online is certainly awful enough. But as dark as NO. 1 WITH A BULLET is, it will give you some sense of hope by the end, and hopefully spur readers to rethink how they engage with others online.

Check out the complete NO. 1 WITH A BULLET TP on June 6th!

NO. 1 WITH A BULLET TP by Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona
NO. 1 WITH A BULLET is an all-around solid comic, complete with relevant topics, stellar art, and emotional yet enjoyable writing. It paints a grim picture of what social media is doing to our humanity, but gives us hope in the end anyway.
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