An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.

The first issue of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant is virtually a textbook example of what a brilliantly executed first issue should be. It opens in a hospital where a man, Garson Poole, awakens to discover that he’s missing his right hand but experiencing no pain. In the issue’s central episode, he learns that he’s a robot — an “electricant,” of the worker drone variety. Until the accident that resulted in the loss of his hand (which is replaced during this episode), Poole hadn’t known he was a robot: he thought he was a regular person. If that’s not a tantalizing enough concept, we should all go hunt antelope instead.

Electric Ant Cover  Before this revealing episode, writer David Mack and artist Pascal Alixe give us a two-page spread in which Poole looks out of the hospital window to see flying vehicles aloft in a cityscape, the futuristic aura of which prepares us for the subsequent revelation that a lot of the “people” at the time of this tale are robots — an instance of adroit storytelling, one giant picture silently orienting us to time and place.

Poole struggles with the knowledge that he’s an “electric ant”: why couldn’t he know that? Because ants are programmed with “blind spots” that prevent them from knowing certain things about themselves. Later, with his new hand, Poole sets off for his home and suddenly realizes that he’s thinking out loud. “Can I control it?” he wonders. “What about my sexual daydreams? Are those out loud too?”

At home, he decides he will find his internal matrix and re-program it. He opens up his torso, exposing all his mechanical insides, and then he nearly panics: can he put himself back together again? And just then, his girlfriend rings the doorbell. Nice cliffhanger. Poole assumes she’s real, not a robot; so he has some relationship work to do, but, standing there with his metallic guts hanging out, he’s probably not going to be able to gently ease into a discrete discussion about his true nature. Or maybe she’s a robot too—and doesn’t know it.

Poole’s ghastly predicament — not just at the end, but ever since discovering he’s a robot—and his understandable entirely human bafflement about it makes him a sympathetic character, likeable enough that we want to see how he fares. Besides, the basic concept of the story is stunning: robots that are programmed not to know they’re robots — and what happens when one of them discovers this peculiar fact. Not having read any Philip Dick, all this is wonderfully astonishing to me, but I know I’m comin’ back again.

Alixe’s art is thoroughly competent — characters always recognizable, anatomy adeptly rendered, breakdowns and panel composition dramatic and clear. Nothing spectacular (although it seems to me the nurse in the doctor’s office is more voluptuous than the story requires) but nothing detracting from the story either. Christopher Sotomayor’s colors are little too vivid in flesh tones, but otherwise entirely serviceable. Here we sample a couple pages.  Electric Ant

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference FIRST ISSUE: ELECTRIC ANT:


The comments to this entry are closed.