If you pay much attention to the news, it’s pretty clear that humanity is doomed, and that D4VE is what the world will be left with. Whether it’s the wire-cutting of Boston Dynamic’s Atlas project or Sony Pictures’ forthcoming film Chappie, it seems that our popular culture has become increasingly obsessed with the idea that we’re all doomed and that it will be our own mechanical creations which wield the knife.
Though it’s increasingly likely to represent our long-term fate, the idea of the robot apocalypse is hardly a new one. It was a popular trope in science fiction long before Arnold’s naked (though gloriously muscled) buttocks graced movie screens around the world. It goes as far back as the word “robot” itself, which first appeared in Karel Čapek‘s 1920 play “R.U.R.”. It was also a common theme in the old-school radio hit X-Minus One(a personal favorite of mine), serving as the central device in episodes such as “With Folded Hands”. In fact, seldom does the idea of widespread dissemination of robotics come without the accompanying extinction of humanity. The war for robot supremacy, however, is not what D4VE is about. It’s about what comes next.
Simply put, having eliminated humanity and all other organic life everywhere in the known cosmos, the robots get lazy, and turn into little more than mechanized humans. They work crap jobs, they drink too much oil, they go to strip clubs in the middle of the day and they neglect their kids. What Ryan Farrier has done here is nothing short of brilliant. He’s taken the so-called human experience and passed it along to the form of life most likely to inherit the Earth once us meat-bags have completed the seemingly inevitable march towards the Singularity. He’s wrapped a slice of life story in the trappings of science fiction’s favorite past time and given it an irreverent, comedic flavor which only underscores the poignancy at its heart.
D4VE, the main character in the comic which shares his name, is the quintessential everyman. Where humans lose themselves in dreams of long-ago glories like high school football victories or that one time they had the fame they reached for, D4VE has “night-cycles” of the time in his life when he meant something as a defense bot. He is immediately recognizable as a mechanical reflection of anyone who has ever looked at their life and thought “is this all I am now?” He is henpecked at home and forced to endure the torment of banal coworkers and overbearing bosses at work. He is a perfect blend of Peter Gibbons from Office Space and Mr. Data from Star Trek.
Farrier’s script is laugh-out-loud funny, though it does flirt at times with an over-reliance on substitution of common words with technical terms (because, you know, we’re speaking robot here). Its exceedingly well-paced, dispensing with the exposition with a humor and brevity which makes it seem like D4VE is describing the last time he vacuumed, as opposed to exterminating the human race. It shows us the bleakness of D4VE’s life and his utter incapability to deal with it. The series is billed as a comedy, and it is. It’s a black comedy, however, driven by the underlying tragedy of it’s subject’s existence.
Valentin Ramon’s art is absolutely vital in telling the story, and overcomes the inherent challenges of dealing with a race of robots through its the ways in which he poses his characters and ever-so-subtly alters the light emanating from D4VE’s facial plate. While one might expect cybernetic society to by crisp, clean, and shining, Ramon shows the reader every scuff-mark, every scratch, ever bit of trash, and every seedy element of the world in way which makes it seem utterly human.
The first issue of D4VE is a darkly funny, masterfully composed opening movement of an opus which holds tremendous promise. Farrier and Ramon have delivered a delightfully fresh take on the robot apocalypse and, if the series delivers on its potential, may have given us the most original spin on nearly-century old concept that we’ve ever seen.
“D4VE #1” earns a hearty 9/10.