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Do Androids Dream
of Electric Sheep? #1

writer: Philip K. Dick
artist: Tony Parker

The thing about Philip K. Dick is …he got things scarily right, at least metaphorically. When Blade Runner first came out, I went to the library and checked out the novel it had been based on, with the (to me, then) funny title Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

What struck me then was how futuristic and funny its view of a quietly post-apocalyptic society was. Certain phrases and ideas stuck with me, and then it got less and less funny as the world sort of caught up to it. However, I never went back to the novel, though I watched Blade Runner enough times that even when I see it without Harrison Ford's voice-over, I still hear it.

Thanks to Boom! Studios, I have a chance to revisit the novel in graphic form, and it's an impressive achievement. First, it works incredibly well as (the beginning of) a graphic novel. Let me presume that artist Tony Parker had something to do with the placement of the text; the credits only allow that the book utilizes the complete text of PKD's original novel.

Let's say Parker worked closely with editor Ian Brill. They did a bang-up job, balancing between the needs of straightforward graphic storytelling and occasionally more impressionistic panels. It's amazing how many crucial elements of the novel get set up with this first installment: Mercerism, the celebrity-obsessed government television channel, Rick Deckard's struggle with his own humanity…the only thing that could possibly make this adaptation work better is if Dick were alive to do it himself.

Parker's art, too, works very well. His page layouts aren't terribly daring, but as we're on the cusp of digital comics, panels may just have to remain more traditional like this. Within the panels, however, Parker takes some risks, and though the story is clearly told, it takes some wild visuals.

There's a moment where a character experiences the quiet of an empty neighborhood, and Parker chillingly communicates that character's very visceral reaction. It's one of the most powerful single panels I've seen in a long time, jumping off from Dick's prose but clearly all Parker's interpretation.

As for that story, it still feels as fantastic and frighteningly not too far off as it did back in 1968. Not that we're close to the androids Dick describes, but we're closer than should be comfortable. The mood enhancements - society's need to have us control our emotions - may not be literally true, but it still feels just around the corner.

Other secrets remain to be revealed, but the creative team has already set it up well. And thus this book achieves success on another level. Perhaps it will lure unsuspecting new readers in, those whose exposure to the author might be limited to seeing Total Recall or Minority Report.

Though PKD can still be found on local bookstore shelves, it's in "important" editions. Here, insidiously, Boom! Just might remind people that PKD was a great storyteller who specialized in blowing your mind. And if you don't believe me, Boom! has also enlisted Warren Ellis to write an article in the back explaining it all; next issue will have Matt Fraction, and presumably that will continue.

Important? Yes. But let's not forget that he was entertaining, too. Boom! didn't. And yet they've still managed to take this and turn it into art.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think!

Derek McCaw


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