The first clue that Origins was going to be a tricky read was on the credits page where three people are listed under “created by” and one person under “script by.” That is a very specific, and telling, piece of information given how grandiose the pitch from the publisher sounds. The BOOM! Studios description says: “One thousand years after humans have become extinct and replaced by artificial intelligence, a single man is brought back to life—David Adams, who created the technology that destroyed his people. Even with the help of the same android who revived him, Adams may not be enough to reignite the spark of humanity—and stop the AI overlords who plan to eliminate mankind permanently. Now Adams embarks on the greatest journey of his life, as he seeks to find redemption for his biggest mistake and discover if humanity can—or should—have any kind of future.”
I use the publisher description here because they unintentionally highlighted several of the issues I had with this story, the largest being how heavy handed the whole thing is. There is not a lot of originality to be found in Origins if you have any experience with post-apocalyptic story telling in any format. The protagonist being named David Adams is just biblical enough to feel contrived and the evil AI network is referred to as “The Network.” That android who was programmed to find and clone a new David is named Chloe. She is modeled on David’s wife and that adds a whole other layer to her being his surrogate mother. They upload old David’s memories into new David so he can try to restore humanity, but this opens the can of worms ‘does he deserve a second chance’ and how does that play out. This is also, obviously, the part of the post-apocalypse story where he learns from his own self where the secret location is of the key to saving humanity, The Vault of Life. They literally named it “The Vault of Life” as if the audience would not understand what was going to happen there.
The story is told through “Then” and “Now” time hops so we can see David as a child growing into the frustrated last-man-on-Earth he is currently. They spend most of the book traveling towards old David’s lab and Vault. They meet other robots along the way and questions of “humanity”, free will, slavery, and more all pop up. In the end, Chloe is “killed” and absorbed by The Network while trying to defend David. She realizes she has evolved beyond her original programming and The Network cannot handle what it is downloading from her consciousness. She says it wasn’t designed to withstand an attack from inside itself like this and isn’t ready for the altered programming. This is when we learn the thing that will save humanity from the robot overlords is love. Literally, actually love. It should have landed with some amount of weight, but this was telegraphed throughout the story and lacked any subtlety.
The art from Jakub Rebelka is visually distinct and works incredibly well for the giant landscapes, all the robots and most of the animals. There is a darker, muddier color pallet and heavy line work which lends to the tone of the book. The overgrown world feels textured and alive, which was one of the things that kept me turning pages. The part that lets the art down are the humans and there aren’t a lot of them so it sticks out.
There is not a publisher rating available for Origins, but I can see it finding an audience with teens and adults looking for a post-apocalypse story that is not full of zombies. There is very little objectionable content here with the exception of a few bad words. For anyone looking for a tale of a humanity trying to claw its way back, but without some of the gratuitous violence that accompanies some of those stories, this book has only robot on robot fighting.
By Clay McLeod Chapman
Art by Jakub Rebelka
BOOM! Studios, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)