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Wednesday 11th August 2010

Robots

An Accent UK Anthology

Review By Bernice Watson

You know technology has been taken too far when your toaster announces it is God Almighty…and helps itself to your credit card!

 

Robots is just one of a larger collection of themed anthologies produced by Accent Comics UK. Other titles in the series include Western and Zombies. These collections provide an opportunity for up and coming, as well as established, comic book talent to showcase their abilities in short story format. In this case all the stories revolve around Robots and AI.

What is really fantastic about this volume is the diverse range of stories it collects. Some are pure entertainment while others pose ethical and philosophical questions about the future of artificial intelligence or the place of robots in human society. Interspersed throughout the stories are the ‘Robot Interviews’ by David Baillie that cover such topics as evolution, getting old and humans with hilarious results. In the same spirit as Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Battlestar Galactica these writers confront the question of where humanity lies - is it inherent to homosapiens? Can it be created? What happens if we create a superior race of beings; do we become obsolete? What if the situations were reversed and it was robotkind who had created human life, would they view us as a threat?

Given scientists' recent successful creation of 'synthetic life' the stories in this anthology suddenly take on a much more real and pertinent tone than just pure fiction. In creating the genome of a bacterium have we, as a species, taken the first step towards creating artificial life? What does this mean for humanity? Well, the stories in Robots explore the possibilities.

Similarly the artwork offers a vast range of styles, some whimsical, others dark and post-apocalyptic but all a visual delight. The many artistic interpretations of androids, robots and cyborgs cover everything from your classic Lost in Space-style android to artificial life in its more refined form. Robotic hookers, cops and soldiers rub shoulders with medical nanobots, intelligent homewares and existentially challenged artificial humanoids. In truth there were times when the black and white format was not as effective as full colour would have been and in some stories it was difficult at first glance to establish what was happening in any given panel. Overall however the lack of colour doesn’t detract from the reader’s enjoyment of this anthology.

My personal favourite is Divinity, Existence and Toast by Benjamin Dickson. In the near distant future home appliances have been fitted with artificial intelligence but what happens when your new gadget suddenly experiences an existential revelation and decides it's a god? Might be time to call in the philosophical big guns...

This is the kind of volume a reader can return to over and over again, flick through its pages and take something new away every time. At an impressive 204 pages Robots isn’t a short read and just goes to show how much as yet untapped comic book talent there is out there. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing some of these creators working on big name projects in the years to come. Not only that but, at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, this edition is a bargain at £8.50 for something twice the size of your average TPB. Check it out at www.accentukcomics.com and grab yourself a copy.


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