Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Comics on artificial intelligence you must read

Comics on artificial intelligence you must read
by rick olivares

I remember when I first saw the film Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford in his first post-Star Wars hit, as a bounty hunter who is tasked to hunt down Replicants, rogue androids who merely want to live and not head for the scrap heap. It was an incredible story (I thought the film adaptation is far superior to the science-fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by the late Philip K. Dick) as it postulated about, “Is artificial life real life?”

Since then we have been treated to robot-centric books and films from Astro Boy, Terminator, Transformers, the heroic Vision and homicidal Ultron in the pages of the comic and film, “The Avengers,” Wall-E, Battlestar Galactica, and the Steven Spielberg movie, “A.I.” to name a few.

It is a fascinating topic especially now in this world of unmanned drones that bomb terrorist targets or map out the sands of Mars. There is even the debate about creating artificial life.

In the light of this, the comic book world presents four excellent treatises on this controversial subject. And I wholeheartedly recommend them. 

Alex + Ada (Image Comics) written by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn and drawn by Jonathan Luna. 
Synopsis: After Alex sinks into depressing following a break-up with his girlfriend, his grandmother sends him, Ada, a Tanaka X-5 android which is a human-companion robot that is designed for human communication or even sexual interaction. The one thing these androids do not have is self-awareness as everything is pre-programmed. In order to get more out of his Tanaka unit, Alex seeks the help of others in freeing Ada and making her more “aware” and capable of independent thought and feeling. This is however outlawed by the government and has dangerous repercussions.

Written and drawn by Filipino-American Jonathan Luna with scripting chores by Sarah Vaughn, Alex + Ada is a 15-issue series from Image Comics. The series is wrapping up in a few weeks and we are braced for an explosive conclusion as Alex + Ada are now on the run from government forces. I will say this about this series, it is thought provoking.

Descender (Image Comics) written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Dustin Nguyen. 
Synopsis: A story about an android name Tim 21 who was activated after 10 years in stasis. In the years before his rebooting,  the giant robots known as Harvesters nearly eradicated human life. The world since then has become an even more dangerous place with survivors having outlawed robots and the galaxy disintegrating between warriors racing. The threat of the return of the Harvesters remains. And the race to uncover the relation between Tim-21 and the Harvesters is on (as they share some similarities but not all in their programs) as an unlikely band of humans led by Tim-21’s creator, Dr. Quon and military types Telsa and Tullis join forces with Tim-21, its robot “dog” Bandit, and protector robot, Driller, to find the truth behind the extinction event.

D4VE (IDW Comics) written by Ryan Ferrier and drawn by Valentin Ramon.
Synopsis: Years after robots overthrow their human masters, life for robots has become sedate. They curiously adapt human life and all its quirks, mannerisms, and jobs. D4VE, a Converse wearing great robot war hero now has to deal with life during peacetime. His only battles are with boredom, traffic, an unhappy wife and a rebellious and Will Smith-worshipping robot son and dealing with the monotony and tediousness of office work. But salvation for D4VE is at hand as alien invaders save  What began as a web comic via Monkeybrain is a runaway five-issue limited hit series with IDW Comics. The next series is slated for this September.

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