Warren Ellis, Matt "D'Israeli" Brooker and the London design firm BERG have all teamed up to release a marvellous and scary comic called SVK. SVK is an exploration of some of the terrifying possibilities of ubiquitous augmented reality in comic form, the story of a disgraced spy who is tasked with recovering a top-secret package lost by a military contractor. Throughout the comic, a second story is revealed in ultraviolet light, visible with the accompanying skinny, wallet-sized UV flashlight (it also works on the joke ads and the real ones). Interspersed with learned essays on comics as an art form (William Gibson), augmented reality (Jamais Cascio) and the history of novelty comics (Paul Gravett), SVK is more than a story, more than a design provocation and more than a warning about the unchecked future of technology in the hands of the military-industrial complex.
BERG have published the comic themselves, and are selling it in a sweet package with the required UV torch for £10, plus £3 shipping (UK — £8 elsewhere).
Comics break the rules of storytelling, invent new ones, and break them again – more often than almost any other medium. This graphic novella is about looking – an investigation into perception, storytelling and optical experimentation that inherits some of the curiosities behind the previous work of BERG.
Litho printed on 115gsm silk paper in tones of black and blue, SVK uses a third ink invisible without the SVK object. The object is a UV light source which unlocks hidden layers woven throughout the comic book. Reading SVK becomes a unique and strange experience as you see the story unfold through the eyes of Thomas Woodwind.
First and foremost SVK is a modern detective story, one that Ellis describes as "Franz Kafka's Bourne Identity".
It's a story about cities, technology and surveillance, mixed with human themes of the power, corruption and lies that lurk in the data-smog of our near-future.