Self/Made #5 // Review
A fugitive AI is on the run from the authorities. She’s in search of the one person who might be able to prove that the world is a simulation. Things prove to be much more complicated than she had anticipated in the latest issue of writer Mathew Groom’s Self-Made. A showdown and a leap of faith are rendered for the page by Eduardo Ferigato with colors by Marcelo Costa. Groom plays with expectations in a twist on certain cyberpunk sci-fi conventions in a fifth chapter that brings a major shift in the story.
The story opens on the life of a man named Rafael. He’s responsible for a very advanced facility in an underdeveloped corner of the world. Mysteries of his lonely facility gradually peer out in the first third of the book before Amala arrives. The rogue AI that has been planted in the body of a simple android has arrived looking to confer with Rafael. She’s heard that he’d been seeking to explore a world beyond the apparent simulated world he suspects that he has been living in his whole life. Things get complicated as the authorities arrive at Rafael’s place fully armed with Amala’s programmer who has been captured.
Groom’s story peels away in a couple of different directions here as Amala’s suspicions about the world might just turn out to be right. She had suspected that she had been pulled out of the framework of one simulated game world only to find herself planted in another. The explorations made at Rafael’s lab suggest that Amala’s not simply a deluded AI. The world Groom is developing now has an added layer of complexity. An intriguing mystery is met with brutal action as the authorities show up. The springboard into the action provides a bracing cliffhanger that could prove to be an exciting new direction for the series.
Ferigato amplifies the contrast between the lush vegetation of a small city against the humble emptiness of Rafael’s lab. The mystery is delivered to the page in a very straightforward style with a few flashbacks here and there. Following Groom’s lead, Ferigato lets the mystery be its own fantasy. No need to amplify the wonders of modern sci-fi technology. There’s too much mood and drama to deliver to make it all look overly sleek and stylish. The grittiness of the story is locked-on by muted blues and grays that dominate Costa’s color scheme. The ethereal glow of Amala’s presence adds the dull luminosity of wonder to the story’s visuals that are matched by a few brutal splatters of red near issues’ end. The two-paged of total black at the end of the issue amplify the mysteries that the series dives into next month.
Groom is showing a deft familiarity with the conventions of cyberpunk and simulated reality sci-fi. He’s not reinventing the wheel here, but he IS adding a few twists in and around the edges of sci-fi tropes that might begin to explore the nature of identity and reality with stylish new eyes. The issue feels like an introduction of sorts that stands quite well on its own as things shift gears into a new direction starting with the sixth issue.