Dec 29, 2013

[Comics] Artifice

A lot of my reviews on this blog are triggered by things that we actually had to invest money in - this includes movie tickets, actual physical books and season passes for stage plays. So one of the things that sort of falls through the cracks are free content items that exist on the internet for everyone to enjoy. Given there's no investment, a lot of times I end up forgetting about them or favoring reviews for things of distinct monetary value.

But Artifice is way more than just a random webcomic that should be set aside and forgotten. If anything, it's one of the more striking stories that I've read and it's certainly fortunate that the entire comic is available online for free. A physical copy of the comic is also available though and I'm considering trying to track one down to add it to my collection.

I really enjoyed Artifice given how it managed to remain an LGBT story without needing to clearly mention that it's an LGBT story every other panel or something - if you get my drift. At the end of the day this is still a science fiction story, although one with definite romantic leanings.

Synopsis: Artifice is a science fiction webcomic created by Alex Woolfson with art by Winona Nelson. As mentioned, the entire comic is available for free online or you can look for a physical copy of the book out there.

The story opens a robot named Deacon being harrassed by two guards watching over him. Deacon does his best not to respond to their attempts to provoke him. Eventually he easily snaps free of his bonds and demonstrates how strong he is without actually hurting the guards. We are then brought to a therapy session wherein the goal is to debrief Deacon and determine what exactly had happened during his last mission.

Thus we are taken to Da Vinci Four where we discover just what Deacon and his fellow robots were designed for. They're highly advanced soldiers designed to look human (including the ability to convey emotions somehow) and possess superhuman strength, speed and tactical abilities. One thing leads to another and Deacon is left alone given all other operatives had been destroyed during the mission. He then discovers one human survivor and he opts to keep the human alive in order to help him remain fully charged until his is retrieved by his masters.

If you look at Woolfson's website URL, you'll see that he makes direct reference to yaoi, thus this is still a story that features guy-on-guy romance. In this case, the romantic connection is formed between Deacon and the human survivor, Jeff. And I have to admit, the way things develop is rather poignant, to some extent.

Granted, it's hard to depict the full exploration of an artificial human falling in love with a guy like Jeff over the course of the therapy debriefing and assessment session. But the glimpses that we do get to see do demonstrate Woolfson's grasp of storytelling and teasing us with just enough to keep us engaged until the next page. Considering how it first went along as a webcomic, I can imagine the release medium may have somehow affected his writing to feature a number of cliffhangers week after week. But this in no way diminishes the quality of the story.

I honestly liked how they bonded and it felt genuine enough for me to believe it possible without going overboard with additional pages or something. The way the story unfolded was just enough to establish the mood that he was aiming for and then moves on with the rest of the story as needed.

The art is rather well done and major kudos to Winona Nelson is in order. I like how clean the lines where and how the people seemed distinct enough. Plus they way that she drew their bodies was a nice balance of realistic without the need to go crazy on superhero muscles or something. They looked enough like typical guys you'd encounter on the street (in particular Jeff) and yet they still came off as pretty hot given the dialog and the way they were positioned in the story.

I really enjoyed Artifice - it's certainly worth the investment of time to read and it's a good story overall. And while I do wish this story continued on, at least there's Woolfson's current project, The Young Protectors to continue to look forward to every week. As for this comic, it rates a solid 5 cute little moments between Jeff and Deacon out of a possible 5.

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