It seems like I’m on a roll recently with reconnecting with comics artists past, people whose work I’ve enjoyed but lost track of over the years. I loved Changers, another series of Ezra’s, but it seemed to vanish. Well, after reading his website I now know that it just moved on to a series of other mediums, much like this story was apparently an interactive app for years before the book was published. I’m very much a “published work” kind of guy, so I’ll just focus my comments on that. Because when it comes to the story itself, this one is in a league of its own. Stunning, inventive, viscerally disturbing, oddly hopeful at times while completely hopeless at others, it’s yet another difficult book to talk about without giving some things away, and this time I’m going to do that. So if you’re just looking for the gist: this is an incredible science fiction story that everyone who can read should check out. Clear enough? This is the story of a retired couple with money who end up funding a controversial project with the condition that they be the first test subjects. The project? Human cloning. But upgraded human cloning, meaning the new versions would be better in every way than the old ones. This is slowly established (unless you’re one of those dummies who reads the back of the book first; don’t do that to yourself), and the slow burn is what makes it all the more horrifying. As this is the first test of the process, things go wrong in unexpected ways. The clones come out (for lack of a better term) half-baked, not fully formed, looking more like potatoes than people. And there’s also the unexpected fact that they can’t be very far from their clones without both of them falling ill and possibly even dying. The bulk of the book is about the elderly, frail humans getting to know their other selves; the differences, the similarities, where it all went wrong in their lives and how their clones could do better. I’d recommend this book for the conversations alone (neither of the humans are dummies, but they’re still outclassed compared to their clones), but every aspect of the story comes together so beautifully, I’m able to unreservedly recommend the whole thing. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and this is coming from somebody who’s sick of clones in stories and thought there was no new narrative ground left to cover. Wrong again! $19.99
Trubble Club #1
You know, there really are times when it’s pointless to review a comic. It sounds like a cop out, I know, but Trubble Club is a jam comic involving about a dozen cartoonists in Chicago. They meet every Sunday, put together some jam strips, and (I’m guessing here, as the actual information about this process on the website was sparse) put out a new book whenever they put enough material together. Who are these people? Really, this should be all it takes to convince you to check this out: Al Burian, Lille Carre, Ezra Claytan Daniels, Lucy Knisley, Rachel Niffennegger, Bernie McGovern, Onsmith, Laura Park, Grant Reynolds, Becca Taylor, Jeremy Tinder and Marco Torres. If you’re new to this site and these names aren’t familiar to you, plug just about any of them into that search option up there (the full list of artists will be restored one of these days, I swear) and spend some time checking out some quality work. Future volumes, judging from the website, will have other people, and visiting cartoonists will probably get in on the act as well. Honestly, I’m confused as hell about the process here. Every single page is its own story, and it seems most of the time like the next page starts with an idea from the previous page before veering off in its own direction… except for the times when it seems completely new. And I thought for a while that it was one artist per page, but upon closer inspection maybe others are jumping in on different panels. All I know for sure is that this much talent thrown together in a room can’t go wrong, and I hope they keep it up for… let’s see, they’re probably all in their late 20’s or early 30’s… how about another 50 years or so? OK, fine I’ll mention a few of the topics, just to prove how pointless it is to analyze such a thing. An unhygienic stump, Sackley, a doomed giant hot dog, “footsie”, mancakes, and we gotta cook this hog. This is $3 and worth every penny.
The Changers Book Two: Our Obligation to the Future
Frankly, I wouldn’t have expected this level of competence and ingenuity from somebody’s first graphic novel/mini series. This book ties up all the loose end of the first, and asks the questions: do two people have the right to decide which way evolution is going to go for an entire race of people? Is contentment in the face of constant adversity merely giving up? Why is it so impossible to appreciate what we have when we have it? Ezra has asked these and many, many more questions with this book and the previous one, and I think he’s done a great job of giving answers for a lot of them, while at the same time showing that no matter how much time we have under our belts to evolve, basic human frailties are inescapable. In this book the alien from the altered future undergoes some disturbing changes, and the truth about his people and their place in his world are revealed. All those other questions I mentioned are in there too. I think this book is brilliant. About the only bad thing I could say about it would be that I don’t agree with some of his theories about what mankind would do under certain hypothetical future conditions, such as an inevitable asteroid strike. He seemed to think everybody would collectively give up all their vices and put together their best work, I think everybody would come to realize the futility of their existence and give in to ALL their vices. Anyway, personal opinion, but the argument he lays out for it is still fascinating. This is a phenomenal series. Anyone who longs for smart science fiction should check these out. Contact info is up there, you know what to do…
The Changers Book 1: Evolution is Our Right
Quick, what’s the last really good science fiction comic anybody out there has read? Anybody? The list is pretty small, unless I’m just missing out on a whole bunch of stuff. This one, when it’s completed, could certainly be the best of recent years because of the sheer imagination involved in the concept. I explained the concept for the series in my review for #1, which is above, so check that out and come back. This book collects #1-3, as Ezra decided that publishing the next two issues would be too expensive. Great idea as far as I’m concerned, as that gives me the chance to read everything that’s done so far in one sitting. Anybody who’s ever wondered where humanity might be going or has ever bothered to think beyond next month, let alone next year, let alone a thousand years from now or even three millions years… just read it, OK? My one nitpick in the whole thing is that maybe, for future editions, Ezra should consider putting the text pieces all together either at the front or the back of the book. These text pieces are fascinating two page treatises on death, racial classification and culture and are worth the price of admission by themselves. This is $8.95, go to his website and buy them.
The Changers #1
What a fascinating concept. Humans have gone pretty much as far as they can go, three millions years now, and have decided to go back in time to help evolution along. Two people from the future are doing this and there is a mysterious creature who’s trying to contact them. That’s the short explanation for this, and that’s all you’re getting out of me because you should really check this out for yourselves. It has one of the oddest cliffhanger endings that I’ve ever seen (you’ll only get that if you read it or check the preview on his website), and there’s also a diary-like entry at the end detailing human history that has yet to happen. Ezra has obviously spent a great deal of thought on this, trying to figure out what could happen to humanity through three million years, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. If there’s one drawback to getting books like these early with this website it’s that I have to wait longer than most people to see how the story continues. Yeah, I know, boo-hoo for me…
Disposable Boy #2
This is the kind of autobio that is almost uncomfortable to read. This guy bares his soul with these books and he doesn’t make anything look better than it is. He’s well aware of his own deficiencies and seems to be almost dedicated to making sure that they continue. In this one he gets invited to a party and can’t seem to make a human connection. It’s depressing to read, but the guy is an amazing writer and he tells you about things that most people wouldn’t go anywhere near. These are a couple of bucks each and, while short, are definitely worth a look. He has an e-mail address and a website, get ahold of him and have him send you some stuff, won’t you?
Disposable Boy #1
This is all about Ezra riding the bus every day. That probably sounds dull as hell, but what I failed to mention is that this is autobiography at its finest, at least in comic form. He speculates about everybody on the bus and is very conscious about how he must seem to the world. I’ll get into more details for the next issue, but the guy is talented.