Ever since finishing the five currently available volumes of Saga, I have been devouring comics at an alarming rate–close to one comic book a day! My excitement over this incredible new world of books knows no bounds. I’m going to start a new weekly feature on the blog, “Comics Gobble”–a roundup of the best comics I’ve read over the past week, along with some thoughts about comics in general from the perspective of a new reader of the genre. Look out for the first one this coming Friday!
But before I get to some of the other great comics I’ve read over the past two weeks, I have to tell you about this one, because the two volumes of O Human Star are among the best books I’ve read so far this year, prose included.
Blue Delliquanti describes the comic as “a science fiction family drama.” Alastair Sterling is a brilliant inventor and robotics scientist, but just before his biggest robotic breakthrough goes public, he dies, and thus dosen’t get to see the how his work changes the world forever. Until, sixteen years later, he wakes up in a robotic body that is a perfect replica of his own, his brain, thoughts, and memories intact. He goes looking for his former lover/scientific partner, Brendan Pinsky.
Brendan is just as surprised to see Alastair alive as Alastair is to be alive. Even more surprising is the fifteen-year old Sula, a robot Brendan is raising as his daughter. Sula’s mysterious origins start to become clear as Alastair, Brendan and Sula tentatively work out how to be a family.
O Human Star is a deeply intimate story about two men trying to work out what they mean to each other, and a teenage girl struggling with where she comes from, and who she wants to be. There are a couple of wonderful supporting characters, but the story is really about Sula, Brendan and Alastair. It might be an ordinary, quiet family drama if it weren’t for the fact that two of these characters are robots.
The brilliance of the work is similar to that of Saga–in both cases, the authors tell specific, intimate human stories against an epic backdrop. In O Human Star that backdrop is a future in which robots are commonplace and sentient, and thus what it means to be human is constantly changing.
Delliquanti raises so many questions of identity and belonging in the sparse, beautifully drawn pages of this comic. What makes us who we are–our bodies, our brains, our memories? Where and how and why do we find belonging? Is there some innate quality of humanness that resides inside us, and can it be replicated?
The narrative is masterful, alternating between the past, starting with Alastair and Brendan’s first meeting, and the present, when Alastair wakes up after his death. The two-color art is both gorgeous and comfortable. It’s inviting. It somehow manages to be familiar and foreign at the same time, which is also true of the story: our world, but not quite our world.
I finished O Human Star days ago and I am still haunted by its beauty. It’s a fascinating premise and a beautifully told story full of mystery and emotional depth. The characters are whole and real. I thought I’d never find another ode to queer family as beautiful as Saga, and the very next comic I picked up proved me wrong. O Human Star is even more obviously about queer family. In a startlingly original and moving story, Delliquanti captures the joys and the challenges inherent in building families–identities, people, relationships–from scratch and outside of the norm.
The best books, in my opinion, are the ones that get at the deepest truths about what means to be human. They raise questions and challenge the things you thought you knew and they swirl around in your heart and and your brain for days and months afterward. O Human Star was that kind of book. It was a joy to read.
You can buy both volumes on Blue Delliquanti’s website–they’re only $5 each digitally and you’ll be supporting a queer artist who self-published the first two volumes of this amazing piece of art. My only warning: the comic isn’t finished, and the first two volumes left me desperately wanting more. Delliquanti updates the website with new pages every week, but, if you’re like me and like to read stories all in one go, you’re in for a bit of a wait. I promise it will be worth it.