Through his groundbreaking work in robotics, Alastair Sterling helped pave the way for the AI revolution. Unfortunately for him, he died unexpectedly before he could see his work completed. That is, until 16 years later when he woke up in a robotic body matching his former self and containing all of his memories, but with no idea how he got there. His only hope at finding answers in a world he no longer recognizes lies with his former research partner, Brendan Pinsky.
Author/cartoonist Blue Delliquanti first developed her comic in 2010, and began posting pages online as a webcomic in February 2012. Soon after, Delliquanti made a name for herself as a queer author championing the LGBTQ community, who used her own experiences to create comics people could turn to for guidance. A successful Kickstarter campaign brought O Human Star to print.
In O Human Star, right off the bat we’re given brief glimpses into the true nature of Al and Brendan’s relationship. It has a real foundation to it. Through flashbacks, we see the strain caused by Al’s slight discomfort with his sexuality, which is still evident 16 years later. Delliquanti also includes the transgender community through Brendan’s robotic daughter Sulla, who brings a fun, playful energy to the graphic. Delliquanti very seamlessly writes about how Sulla was originally born a boy, but decided she wanted to be a woman because that’s how she identified, so Brendan made that change for her, no questions asked. The lack of discussion speaks volumes and shows the progress their society has made on transgender issues.
O Human Star also dives headfirst into issues of morality, ethics, and the argument of what can versus what should be done with the human psyche posthumously. In their world, robots aren’t just pre-programmed beings, but direct copies of someone’s actual mind. So while Al may seem human, he’s not. The entire story also takes place within a couple of days. While Delliquanti packs a lot of information into those few days, the story never grows boring. It forces us to ask ourselves: at what point are lines crossed and when do issues of ethics come to play? Or have those lines already been crossed?
Phenomenal writing aside, the art propels it to another level. The entire graphic novel is illustrated in two color palettes to signify the time period. The present tense is illustrated in blue tones, while flashbacks are drawn in red. The flashbacks are never out of place nor disrupt the flow of the story, but give the reader further insight into who Al and Brendan were 16 years prior. In a couple scenes, both tones are used to sharply contrast one another and fully draw the reader in. The limited use of color also forces the reader to focus on the characters and story without getting lost in the background and what’s going on around them. Delliquanti is also great at putting in subtle markings on her characters, such as the line of circuitry on Al’s hands, to distinguish between human and robot. It’s so faint yet effective that the reader can always tell the difference, especially since robots work so hard to look human. Delliquanti also skillfully draws faces in a way that show more emotion than any line of text ever could. Many times the panels don’t even need text to convey the emotion Delliquanti wants us to experience and allow the story to shine.
O Human Star is meant for mature audiences due to sexual content and male nudity. While the progression of Al and Brendan’s relationship is tastefully done and none of the sexual imagery is gratuitous, it might be too graphic for some audiences. The issues Delliquanti writes about are important and necessary, though. It’s important for people to see themselves in literature because it gives them something tangible they can positively relate to, and O Human Star does just that.
O Human Star, vol 1
by Blue Delliquanti
Independently published, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Mature