Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels (2016)

L: 8.5/10


J: 10/10

Analysis from Theresa, who just got fired from Home Depot for refusing to spraypaint the succulents festive Halloween colors because she firmly believes plants have a soul:

I picked Upgrade Soul after my non-local comic book supplier, Vault of Midnight, had highlighted it as a must-read. I then sat on it for more than a year. It had popped up again on some list I was barely reading, and after seeing the cover, I remembered it sitting in my basement collecting dust, just begging to be chosen and read. I knew this was a safe pick to be received well by the group, but had I known it was this good, I would have moved it up in the queue. 

Ezra Claytan Daniels both writes and illustrates the story of the Nonnar’s experimental journey into everlasting youth. The aging couple jumped on the opportunity to be the lab rats to an untested cloning process. Hank and Molly Nonnar have done well for themselves; Hank successfully continues his father’s science fiction writing career, and Molly with her own career in the science field. They cash in some of this financial success into funding a backyard cloning operation, in which they are the first (and last) human subjects for. 

The actual process is a little murky, but the resulting fallout leaves Hank and Molly living alongside mutated potato versions of themselves. As the cloned versions gain their strength and independence, a messy love triangle is thrown into the mix, and Hank’s clone gets a little murdery. The small sense that the scientists in charge of this ragtag operation have any control is thrown on the window, and the original Hank and Molly barely escape the ordeal with thier lives.

Something within my brain works too hard to keep things straight when clones are involved. Even when one half of the equation is a mutated mess, I struggle to keep who is who straight. That, along with the quick brush over of the actual cloning process, I spent some time in the middle struggling to figure out what was actually happening. The story keeps some of its mystery in its pocket, which adds to the heaviness of chaos when the final act starts to unfold.

The art is great for the story, they fit together nicely. The illustration reminded me a little of Frank Quietly, a little shakey and rough around the edges. It makes the story unpolished and flows with the creepiness that this story explores. The story is really the shining part of Upgrade Soul; it’s something that will make a great adaptation one day and is already in the works to nobodies surprise. The shortcomings I can find are all swallowed up by the greatness of Upgrade Soul. This is a book that needs to be handed off and shared.

Analysis from the one fair libertarian in a sea of Trump yard signs:

YOU GUYS!!!!! Get. Up. On. THIS.
I freaking loved this. I have already given direct orders for people to read it. In most of our trade pics, I am fairly confused initially, and I have to find my place and re-evaluate things a few times before I can get into it, but with this, I was hooked on the first page! The concept and idea of the book are so creative and thought out. You immediately fall in love with Hank and Molly. They are a cute, clever elderly couple; The kind you want to spend your summers with and curl up and hear all their stories. They might have aging bodies, but their minds and wit are as sharp as tacks, and they can delight a child in a hot second.
The fact that these two have enjoyed their long lives so much that they want more and are willing to be living science experiments to do it kicks ass. I love that. I love that they are ballsy and brave. I love their love for science and their belief that it is so much more for us to learn and absorb than what we can see in front of us.
Let’s talk about the artwork. Now come on, you guys, this is perfect. It is not over the top. It is not flashy. The art style is so completely compatible with the writing. I mean, it makes sense why, but still. KUDOS! I could have never imagined these characters. My mind could have never conceived this.
What a treat. My next pick will be one of Mr. Daniel’s work as he has now created a fan for life! Great pick L!

Analysis from your favorite person’s voice on the other end of the phone line:

The idea of being given a chance to live in a body infinitely better (younger, stronger, capable of more intelligence) is so compelling. I’d like to get rid of this knee cracking that I’ve had since my rollerblading mishap in Jr. High or have enough mental stamina to call people the right names (seriously, why do I mis-say people’s names based on the number of letters in their name?!) I imagine that, as it was in this book, if I were elderly the desire would be even stronger. 

In Upgrade Soul, the main protagonists are given this choice to be the first to be offered a rejuvenation of their bodies. It is sold as a way to be able to put away all of the traumas and experiences of their flesh and gain a superior version of themselves. They take it and, boy oh boy, are there some consequences! Despite being a sci-fi graphic novel, there was definitely some haunting realism about everything that took place. I like that this story vividly shows the different responses that people would have when put in such circumstances. I think there would be something beautiful about being able to separate yourself from some of the upsetting things that have happened to your body but, I think for me, it would lead to some dissociative disorder, much like it did for Manuela. It would be bizarre to watch your body walk around without you.

One part of this book that I found captivating was the illustrations. They had a haunting quality that made me sometimes wonder if I was indeed reading about Frankenstein and his monster instead of the book before me. You should also definitely check out the soundtrack! 

I didn’t know what I was in for when I began this book, but I couldn’t put it down once I got started. If you are looking for a book that would spark some good philosophical conversation or introspection, as it did for me, then this will be a piece you’d really enjoy and want to share.

Ezra Claytan Daniels

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