Incredible Doom by Matthew Bogart, illustrated by Jesse Holden

Incredible Doom [vol.1] by Matthew Bogart, illustrated by Jesse Holden, HarperAlley (an imprint of HarperCollins), 9780063064942, 2021 

Format: Hardcover, graphic novel

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Incredible Doom started out as a webcomic and despite its ominous title and edgy, pixelated cover that recalls Stranger Things, is, so far, pretty realistic. Set in the early 90s, when dial-up Internet first provided access to electronic bulletin boards, it follows two parallel stories about outsiders who meet up using this new technology. Allison uses it to connect with a lonely guy named Sam, who eventually helps her escape from her abusive magician father. Meanwhile, Richard, a new guy who loves Kurt Vonnegut, finds himself at the mercy of high school bullies, but is rescued by tough girl Tina, who runs a bulletin board from the basement of a crash pad. The art is minimalist and sophisticated, using only black and white with sky blue accents. Characters are identifiable through one or two visual traits: Richard’s baggy t-shirts and aviator glasses, Allison’s sweep of blond hair. The sections are punctuated with black pages simulating old DOS screens, in which the teens converse, in an era before texting, cell phones or even email. I spent the whole book wondering when and how the stories would intersect and, sure enough, Bogart swooped in with a cliffhanger ending; now I might have to read the webcomic if I don’t want to wait around for volume 2, due out next year. I loved how the art and the story came together to re-create the desolation of suburbia and the positive connections we all anticipated being born out of internet connectivity. Except for Sam (who has a Black dad and an Iranian mom) the main characters are all White. Tina turns out to be queer, after awkwardly being outed by Richard.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  The content can be disturbing and violent, especially Allison’s flight from her scary dad, so best for high school or adult readers. I think many teens would be fascinated by this elegant look at the world before Instagram, Facebook, and texting. Despite the spareness of the illustrations and terse talk bubbles, the characters are easy to identify with and their stories demand attention.

Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Graphic novels

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: July 3, 2021

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