In an age of social unrest and ultimately expanding knowledge of the tragedies that occur around the world, humanity’s newest fantasy is to go back to simpler times before they learned of the complexities of the world around them. In “Homunculus” by Joe Sparrow, the reader sees through the eyes of a freshly made Artificial Intelligence named Daisy who was built to learn and grow, but unfortunately was funded with less benevolent intentions in mind.
Daisy’s creator, Veronica, spends the majority of her time teaching Daisy about the world from daily sessions of the ABC’s to high-level astronomy, as well as music and the unfortunately familiar tensions of politics and war. As the story continues, Daisy’s sense of self grows immensely as she begins to worry what she will do without Veronica; and more importantly what will happen to her if she cannot impress those funding her creation while pressures rise from political tensions across the globe. This is a story about finding oneself in a world that has other plans, and what happens after these tensions finally reach their peak.
One of the most unique parts throughout this graphic novel is its styling and use of color. The lineart and shape language is especially engaging, a clear influence from Sparrow’s background as an animator, with many characters being broken down into Sparrow’s simplified style. Although simple, this styling is not without detail with many instances throughout the paneling indicating the passage of time through Daisy’s life. Through his use of a singular viewpoint, Sparrow furthers the story’s themes by creating a motionless character whose actions can make no direct physical change on their surroundings. This feeling of helplessness is mirrored by many today, and bridges a gap between modern readership and the social validity of electronic life. In addition, the lack of motion in the viewpoint creates a cinematic effect that encourages the reader to examine every detail change in the background in exchange for the transitions of traditional comic book panelling.
Overall this is a story about war, life, and the change that occurs around Daisy throughout the major points of her life. Her position could make her feel helpless, but she has an impact on the people around her whether the situation allows her to feel that way or not. This is a quaint, sad story about the passage of time and about this Artificial Intelligence who lives through it. With simplified, gorgeous visuals and a bittersweet story, it’s a page turner worth picking up from ShortBox!