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Review: Artifice, by Alex Woolfson

ArtificeNow I see what all the fuss is about.

I just finished reading the graphic novel Artifice, by Alex Woolfson (illustrations by Winona Nelson). When we planned to attend Rainbow Con, Angel was all excited about the featured guest, some guy I’d never heard of. Turns out Alex had the table across from QSF in the dealer room – he’s a great, sweet, personable guy.

I’m sorry it took me so long to review this, Alex! I planned to buy it at RC, but Mark dissuaded me – apparently because he wanted to surprise me for Christmas with a signed copy. It was a happy day in the Guzman-Coatsworth household.

Artifice is Alex’s first full graphic novel – a sci fi adventure that revolves around Deacon, a “synthetic person” who was created to be an enforcer for a corporation. The story treads some of the same ground as the play “The Uncanny Valley”, which Mark and I aw earlier this year – with a psychiatrist interviewing an artificial intelligence. But in this case, she is trying to determine why he deviated from his programming in a planned mission.

The story is really well done and nicely paced, veering between a tense stand-off on the psychiatrist’s couch and flashbacks to the incident in question. The book questions what it means to be human – who is more so, the android with a heart, or the human beings who can order the death of others on a whim?

The book also delves into what it means to be different. Woolfson discusses this at the back of the book:

“I made the decision to write a story with an android in large part because of what that would let me do. Here’s the thing about androids: even though Deacon looks exactly like the humans who made him and can act like the humans who made him, due to his origins and designs, he’ll never truly be one of them…. Certainly growing up as a gay kid in a straight family and straight society informed my desire to tell that kind of story.”

This works well as a metaphor within the story, and Deacon is also literally gay. Or at least… well, I’ll let you read it yourself and find out.

Yaoi911_Artifice_Webcomic_041There’s no explicit sex, but there are some sexy scenes.

Nelson’s graphics are sparely and beautifully done, focusing the reader on the characters. And the twist at the end caught me off-guard, which is always a plus. Be sure to read Woolfson’s afterword – he has some great thoughts on writing, both how he was inspired to create the story, and how an author can write something the audience will believe, even it it’s off-the-charts crazy.

The writing is both sexy and smart, and I loved the byplay with his lover. And the verbal sparring with the therapist was also well done.

I’m reading Woolson’s The Young Protectors next, which he did in conjunction with the talented illustrator Adam DeKraker. Pick up one or both with your Christmas money here:

You can also read them online. But having a copy of your own is waaay cooler.

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