Imagine catching a plague with a 1% survival rate but if you’re in that tiny percentage you’ll walk away with superpowers — illegal superpowers. And if you did recover from almost certain death you’d find yourself without a job, because everyone was positive you wouldn’t survive.
That’s Mer’s story in 20XX. She just doesn’t know what her powers will be yet, only that they’ll come in the form of STS (Selective Telekinesis and Sensing). She also only knows one other person who’s become a Sym — survivors of the Bethel Virus they’re infected by — her cousin Lucas.
Lucas, however, has seemingly dropped off the grid, and to find him Mer has to immerse herself in a community she knows little about. Finding herself surrounded by gang warfare, and with no clue what her STS powers will be.
This new world serves as a vehicle to comment on real world issues, among them discrimination, feeling like an outsider even among outsiders, and the all-too-common phobia of those suffering from illness.
20XX doesn’t waste a single panel. I was genuinely surprised by how fast paced and non-stop this first issue was. Although this is far from the first media to deal with the topic of a world-ending plague, I do feel like this is one of the fastest to establish the immediate “it could happen to anyone” feel of such a sickness. The opening narration primes you for this, but I was still surprised when this was delivered within the opening pages, rather than being a slow burn throughout the first issue. That is a testament to the world building displayed here by Luna and Keely. By delivering the action so upfront, they’re able to establish the state of the world we’re in through natural conversation rather than spending page after page showing us everything we need to know.
Jonathan Luna’s art works wonders through this issue, with an excellent representation of emotive facial expressions, and the illustration of a world subtly different from our own. Moreover, the use of black and white artwork concentrates focus on Mer’s story. If I had any complaints to make, it would be that some panels would feel more prominent with some occasional use of color (as we’ve seen from Nicola Scott in Black Magick). Also there are some instances where backgrounds seem to be lacking from panels, which could be a conscious choice to draw focus on the characters.