Review – Unfollow #18 (Vertigo Comics)

Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Mike Dowling
Release Date: 26th April, 2017

One hundred and thirty-six down, four to go.

After such a monumental build-up over the previous seventeen issues, the pressure on writer Rob Williams and artist Michael Dowling to “stick the landing” here with the final chapter of Unfollow must have been fairly significant.  Thankfully, and in an outcome that should surprise absolutely nobody, the pair manage to do exactly that here, providing a tense, exciting and thought-provoking denouement to what has been a truly stellar series.

With “the 140” now reduced to just four, this gripping conclusion sees Ravan, Courtney and Dave – now wearing and receiving instructions from Rubinstein’s mask in a fairly troubling twist – finally confronting billionaire Larry Ferrell to bring the entire series full circle.  In typical Ferrell fashion, the tech mogul has one last game to play, but quite whether there are any willing players left remains to be seen.

Ravan, who has played an important but understated role in the story to this point, finally gets her moment to shine in one particularly poignant scene which sees her individual character arc reach a powerful conclusion.  Elsewhere, the tumultuous relationship between Courtney and Dave is given an equally powerful moment of physical catharsis.

The final issue resonates on several different levels, much like the series as a whole, simultaneously providing both a tightly scripted action finale and a broader message about the fickle and frequently narcissistic nature of social media.  Williams has made this same point throughout the course of the series without it ever feeling preachy or judgmental, and he closes things out in style here, delivering a timely statement about the sometimes skewed values of our modern society before finishing with an absolute gut-punch of a flourish in the final pages.

Dowling brings the goods once again with the artwork,  delivering one kinetic scene after another, but manages to saving his best work for that scene involving Ferrell, as well as the delivery of William’ aforementioned gut-punch.  There’s nothing overly flashing or ‘showy’ about Dowling’s work, which may seem like damning with faint praise, but I truly can’t imagine this series working quite as well with any other artist.  His stripped-down, expressive style really helps to deliver the level of realism the story requires to fully resonate, something that’s on full display throughout the entirety of this finale.

It’s not a happy ending – as if it ever would be – but Williams keeps just a tiny hint of uncertainty in the final few pages to keep the brain cells firing long after the issue has been put down.  Not enough to leave the door open for a sequel necessarily, but definitely enough to provide food for thought as this series is read and re-read in the years to come.

Honestly, Unfollow is pretty much a textbook example of fleshing out a high-concept premise into a thoroughly gripping story, and both Rob Williams and Mike Dowling should be immensely proud of what they’ve created here.  This is a fantastic conclusion to a series that has surely cemented its place in the upper echelon of Vertigo’s storied back catalogue, and one that comes with my highest possible recommendation.

Rating: 5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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