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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep #1

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep #1

Credits

  • Words: Phillip K. Dick
  • Art: Tony Parker
  • Colors: Blond
  • Publisher: BOOM! Studios
  • Price: 3.99
  • Release Date: Jul 11, 2009

Phillip K. Dick’s most infamous work is brought to comics.  But Boom!, knowing this is a special novel, adapts it in an unique manner.  Instead of letting some hot writer, Warren Ellis or Matt Fraction come to mind, put their own spin on the writer’s trademark science fiction and paranoia filled fantasy, the publisher has taken the writer’s original words and given them extensive illustration.  It gives a whole new meaning to the term graphic novel.

In the not so distant (anymore) future, a war has devastated the Earth.  Rife with fallout, most of humanity has emigrated to other planets.  For those that are left on Earth, it can be an emotionally tough existence.  There are machines to help you deal with your moods, animals to take care of, television to beg you to join the others in New America (Mars), and Androids to fear.

The first issue introduces us to two humans who are dealing with this dystopia.  First we meet Rick Deckard, a police man, more specifically an Android Bounty Hunter.  His wife has been dialing herself depression periods, while he tries to remain professional and enthusiastic about his job.  He is frustrated with his ersatz sheep and low pay, feeling like less of a person for all of this.

The other is John Isodore.  He is a special, a person who has been mutated by the fallout.  As a result of his mutation, he has had a rough life and now is a little challenged in his mental capacity.  However, he doesn’t feel like less of a person, even though the ubiquitous Buster Friendly and the emigration laws would like him to feel different.  He readily engages in a hyper-real virtual religion that connects him to people throughout the universe.

There is a rhythm to Dick’s prose that recalls the noirish pulps of the Fifties.  He has an elegant and unique turn of phrase and uses the beat to push the reader along.  It makes for an exhilarating read and can often lead the reader to scratch their head just a bit.  However, like reading Toni Morrison, if one sticks with it, it will all come together.  This is a little foreboding for the serial nature of this twenty four issue maxi-series.  Will the break in between chapters hurt the storytelling? Only time will tell.

However, this first issue works perfectly.  The world is introduced in full, if not the reasoning behind the need for livestock or the fear earthbound humans have of androids.  It is to be assumed that this will be fleshed out as it continues.

What we do get is a glimpse into the fascination of consumerism and the distrust of authority that are hallmarks of Dick’s writing.  He was a product of the Zeitgeist of 50's America.  Sure, he takes everything to a further extent than Ginsberg or Kerouac and he works in a different field altogether, but in many ways, he is making the same kinds of statements.  Humanity is doomed if it loses empathy and merely submits to the rules of the land.

The art of Parker is a nice fit.  It was a bit unsettling at first.  Such a distinctly thick line seemed at odds with the intimate nature of the introductory sequences, but as the book unfolds and the designs become more commonplace and the world Dick created is realized as entities with physical presence, it all begins to work.  The madness of Isodore is particularly skillful in its rendering.  The artist makes the future seem real and different while still allowing Deckard and Isodore to look like normal people.  It is a perfect match for the study of humanity set in a world of unfamiliar gadgets.

With back matter by Warren Ellis that lays many of both Dick’s and Ellis’s ticks out in the bare, readers new to Dick’s writing are given a blessing of context.  It manages to invoke the wild times that were the eccentric’s life, while remaining not merely respectful, but almost aweful of the man’s creative genius.  It is a testament to the power of this work and like this comic, threatens to lengthen the cult hero’s status for some time to come.

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