Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Sarah Vaughn
Artist/Co-writer: Jonathan Luna
Release Date: 7th May 2014
Checking back, it seems that issue five of this rather excellent series flew under our radar last month. Which is a shame, because having now read the series as a whole – issue one is free digitally! – it’s earned a place on my now uncomfortably large pull list.
Luna’s minimalist line- and ink-work is part of the piece’s strength – whilst it’s not the most visually arresting art you’ll see this year, it does succeed in setting a grounded tone for the world that we’re seeing, imbued with indie sensibilities that you might expect from a Wes Anderson movie of all things. Everything’s very centred, glazed with soft white light, and apart from the odd sci-fi flourish, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the story was happening in the here-and-now. Then there’s the elegant simplicity of the character design, which serves to emphasise the story point that androids are visually indistinguishable from human beings.
Vaughn’s script continues to explore our protagonists’ emerging companionship, the game-changing events of the previous issue imbuing it with new life, alongside something resembling dread as the potential dangers of their situation start to rear their heads. There’s perhaps some more movement towards the expected human-robot love story that the title, as well as the beautiful array of covers the series has sported thus far imply, but Vaughn and Luna staunchly refuse to do it bawdily. If it does pan out to romance, it’ll have been in retrospect a rather endearing courtship, thanks to intricate little comic and dramatic beats in the script and art. But at this stage, it really could go either way, and issue seven can’t come soon enough.
The dialogue occasionally thunders awkwardly – past even the ‘natural’ strangeness that one might expect from talking to a machine – but these are momentary blips, obvious only because the rest of it flows rather beautifully. It’s also still not what one might describe as ‘fast-paced’, but it never feels slow, imbuing potentially mundane exercises like eating breakfast with the importance of an action set piece, to exemplary effect.
It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily need high adventure and lasers a-shootin’ throughout to make a good science fiction story, or indeed a great comic series. Slow-burning, thoughtful and extraordinarily humanist, it’s examining some big ideas that we may well be dealing with in our own lifetimes. It’s rare for a story like this to tackle the potential joys of ever-advancing technology, and that Vaughn and Luna manage to do it not only in good taste, but with a deep sensitivity is a wonderful surprise.
The writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24