Written by Andre Lima Araujo | Art by Andre Lima Araujo | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
Cyberpunk. A word that reflects both the best of science fiction, and the worst. When done right, we get a glimpse into our probable future, a world of huge cities and amazing technology. When done badly, a lazy technique to cobble together whatever disparate elements the writer feels like using, and character is always second to technology (don’t get me started on steampunk, we’ll be here all day).
As Andre Lima Araujo is both writer and artist, it’s easy to see where to heap our praise or scorn, as this is very much his vision. First impressions? Good. He does indeed utilise traditional cyberpunk elements, but marries them well with other genres. We get a dash of detective noir, a sprinkle of mystery thriller, and a slice of action movie, with some manga on the side. It actually all mixes together extremely well. The story is set in Olissipo City, in Portugal, in the year 2042, a city built and run by corporations. In fact, we discover, corporations have effectively replaced national governments all over the world.
That minimal set-up aside, Araujo clearly believes in hitting the road running as we are thrown straight into the action. A female android, wandering the streets in a distressed state, is hunted and attacked by heavily armed men and barely escapes. This engages the reader immediately. Who’s side are we on? Who is the villain here? The police investigation that follows deepens the intrigue when we discover the men were a military cyborg unit. Araujo subtly opens the world with touches here and there, letting us know cybernetically enhanced individuals exist in this world and people waving ‘robots are evil’ placards hint at a new kind of division in society.
As well as those elements I mentioned earlier, Araujo surprised me by adding yet another genre, that of the police procedural. Again, it fits nicely with the tone. After a little establishing of this world, the story resumes as the police manage to locate the female android and track her down, with a cliffhanger that felt a little reminiscent of Blade Runner (in a good way). The art throughout is outstanding, great layouts, paced perfectly, and Araujo uses his art to not only illustrate his script but to add more layers to the world he has created. There are a lot of visual elements to take in that add to the written narrative unfolding, a sign of both mature storytelling ability and of a love for the material being crafted.
A very strong debut issue, held back for me only by the vague feeling I have seen it all before. Araujo clearly loves this genre, and has thrown in all his influences, which is of course his right, which just makes this all feel a little too familiar. That being said, it’s very hard to come up with anything very original these days and what Araujo does he does very well. He meshes together those genres with confidence , takes familiar elements and uses them well, not just throwing them in lazily and seeing what sticks. The look and feel of Olissipo City is a good one, technology and humanity seemingly struggling to co-exist harmoniously. I am guessing the female android may be the hook for the traditional science fiction conundrum of what exactly does being alive mean? Can an android live? Do they dream of ele….let’s not go there.
Being a new world, I like the fact that at the end of the book Araujo devotes 3 pages to background character profiles of some main characters, and a potted history of Olissipo City. It helps to pull the reader in more, encourages the reader to make a return to see what comes next for these characters and their city.
Definitely enough on show this first trip to justify another visit to Olissipo City.
Man Plus #1 is out now from Titan Comics