I’ve always hated robots. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always found the idea of artificial intelligence unnerving, and the idea of robots posing as human has never sat right with me. Even as a child I had very few robot toys, other than a handful of transformers that I barely played with, I was much more interested in He-Man and Ninja Turtles, organic beings for the most part, than I ever was with robotic life.
AI worries me a great deal. Maybe it’s all the Star Trek I watched growing up (or all of the Terminator movies) but something about artificial intelligence machines has always struck me as just too creepy and uncanny valley to fully be able to embrace. They’re an alien intelligence that would be driven by completely different desires, and quite frankly that’s just not something that I can cotton to.
And yet, while I worry about the impact AI could have on our lives, and the dangers it poses, I’ve always found it to be a fascinating subject for fiction. Now, as I said, I’m not interested in robot media per se, but speaking of Star Trek, I think the episode “Measure of a Man” is one of the finest episodes The Next Generation produced, and debates about the limits of AI, and it’s potential, are something that I am always intrigued by. That being said I also think about the words of the great Dr. Iam Malcom when he said “…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
My robo-phobia aside, I was excited to read this week’s book, Made in Korea from Image comics. The creative team, is fantastic, with author Jeremy Holt (creator of Before Houdini) and artist George Schall (who has done a number of fantastic books including a run on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) together crafting an exciting a terrifying world that addresses where humanity is headed, and the price we may pay for our progress.
So let’s see if this will this be the book to teach me to love our robot overlords, or if it will only send me deeper into my techno bunker?
Here’s the blurb: A QUICKSTART GUIDE FOR YOUR PROXY STEP 1: Remove box. STEP 2: Power on. STEP 3: Raise your child.For Jesse, the world’s first true A.I. system, growing up means learning to think outside the box. This exciting new six-issue miniseries will redefine what it means to be a family in an age when biological parenthood is no longer a reality.
Let me start off before I say anything else, by talking about the thing Made In Korea does better than 99% of the comics on the shelves today. It shows instead of tells. Nothing is explained in this book about the world or the characters, and yet over the course of the first issue a careful reader will not only piece together a very good idea of what is happening, they will also understand why those things are happening.
So many books feel the need to over explain everything to the reader. We are buried under text boxes and thought bubbles. We don’t have to figure anything out for ourselves and this makes us lazy readers. Holt and Schall though, they make you pay attention and work, and the reward is a gradually unfolding awareness of a fascinating world that raises so many questions, and yet doesn’t try to overwhelm you with the answers.
That being said, I can understand that readers who are used to having everything spelled out for them might struggle a bit following the plot. As a 20-year veteran English teacher, let me encourage you to stick with it because I think Made In Korea is something special, and your work is going to be paid off.
Because I think the work is so important, I don’t want to go into too much detail here about the plot. I want you to have the experience I did reading Made In Korea. Instead, I just want to highlight a few things I found interesting before I give my verdict.
First, in a book that requires so much showing, the art is going to be crucial, and as I said, Schall is the perfect artist for the job. The characters are well crafted and expressive, and so much subtext can be read in their faces throughout the first issue. Made In Korea reminds me of the visual storytelling of Jack Kirby, where the art does a good deal of the heavy lifting, and the words are only there to enhance what has already been done (not drown everything out as Stan Lee could sometimes do).
The story itself, about a couple adopting a robot child that is clearly more than meets the eye, has a distinctive A.I. vibe, mixed in with a bit of Children of Men. That being said, this work is its own unique thing, and while it has similarities to bits and pieces of other sci-fi films, at no point did it feel like it wasn’t telling its own important story in its own unique way.
I’m going to give Made In Korea a big thumbs up and recommend you check it out for yourselves. It’s a slow burn book, so you’re not going to fly through it like Batman, but if you’re willing to put the work in, I think you’ll agree with me that Made In Korea is something special.
Until next week, stay safe and stay healthy!
P.S. I still hate robots, but I loved this book!