The first issue of new counter intelligence comic Unthinkable opens a huge box of post-9/11 conspiracy, but, perhaps as a good conspiracy dictates, it's still a bit unclear where this is going.
The comic ostensibly centers around Alan Ripley, a writer of novels that another character refers to as "airplane reading," all pop political thrillers that prey on the public current fears, whether it be Y2K or terrorism. Meanwhile, his brother, Steve, is a military guy who spends time training "weekend warrior" mercenaries. That is, until his brother is killed in the September 11th attacks. (Or is he?)
Either way, Ripley thinks his brother has really kicked the bucket, and gets recruited (at the funeral, conveniently enough) into the Think Tank, a group of code-named specialists whose goal is vague and morally ambiguous. For example, one of his fellow Think Tank members is described thus: "Outbreak—Microbiologist, willing to create a deadly virus . . . Just to prove to you the bad guys can." (Ripley's code name is "Hollywood." And he naturally forms a connection with Outbreak, as she's the only woman on the team.)
Fast forward eight years to the present and we're seemingly in the middle of a war and an energy crisis, but it's unclear exactly how much different (or worse) this imagined present is than our real present. We can hope that future issues will fill in the gaps left by the eight years, telling us what exactly went down with the now-defunct Think Tank.
While Unthinkable is completely readable, especially for anyone who loves a good conspiracy, the first issue feels a bit too rushed, as though we are given too much story and not enough grounding. How much should we care about the seven members of the Think Tank? How much should we care about the Operator, set up as their shadowy leader "whose files are so classified even he can't access them?" What's more important to the present world Ripley lives in—his participation in the Think Tank or the activities of his deceased brother, which are given more weight than a mere subplot would ordinarily be?
These questions are probably reason enough to keep reading, but an additional problem of so much story in a single issue is the fact that we're given a limited amount of time to care about Ripley, the slightly self-centered pop lit writer. Then again, are we really sure that he's the one that we should care about?
Rather than being an alternate history comic, Unthinkable is more of an alternate present, just skewed enough to seem different. Then again, maybe we could say it's not that alternate, after all. Just taking us behind the scenes to a secret organization that seems straight out of an action film or, well, an airplane reading political thriller.
Unthinkable is created and written by Mark Sable, art by Julian Totino Tedesco. #1 is released on Wednesday.