12 Aug 2016

Graphic Perception: AN ANDROID AWAKES

Writer: Mike French
Art: Karl Brown
Elsewhen Press £13.99/$24.99

Matt C: Perhaps this is stretching the definition  compared to other entries under this heading in the past - it's ultimately more 'novel' than 'graphic' (the prose far outweighs the illustrations) - but on balance there's enough synergy between the words and images to earn it look here. Besides, the science fictional content and the general ingenuity of the narrative means it's more than worthy of being given attention as its approach to telling a tale set in a future dominated by robots feels unique and fresh, one that reveals its inventive structure the further it goes along.

PD121928 is an android writer who has a finite number of opportunities to have one of his stories published before he faces deactivation, and he currently has 14 more chances to avoid rejection before he's switched off permanently. With this setup established, the narrative then leads into a succession of short stories as we read though PD121928's increasing elaborate attempts to create something a publisher will deem worthy of introducing to a wider world. What initially seems like a series of fantastical, creative but unconnected tales soon reveal themselves to be full of similar motifs, overlapping characters and common themes, the most prominent of these being loss.

The majority of the protagonists in the story are dealing with loss in one form or another, in much the same way as PD121928 himself is - he saw his wife taken away once he became part of the Android Publishing Program, replaced by a monetary allowance for state prostitutes. The shorts, which feature Welsh spacemen, someone with a fish in his eye, a murderous button obsessive, and an ocean in the sky, all exhibit an undercurrent of grief, with PD121928 channelling his own grief through his writing, becoming increasingly despondent as his creativity blossoms.

Brown's illustrations display a definite Brit sci-fi sensibility (2000 AD being an obvious source of inspiration) but there also seems to be a perceptible manga influence, and while at first there's often an almost abstract connection to the words, everything soon gels together, with the visuals complementing the text without intruding on reader's own imagination. French has created an impressive narrative puzzle here, and once all the pieces begin slotting together he reveals a mind that, while it may consist of wires, oil and gyros, is still capable of experiencing difficulty when processing and accepting grief. An Android Awakes may possess a metal heart at its centre but it beats loudly and firmly all the same. 8/10

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