Onwards, with some graphic novels featuring powerful women of color from the adult section of the library. I’m a big fan of Nnedi Okorafor, and I buy the adult graphic novels for my library, so naturally I had to purchase and read her new graphic novel! Self/Made came in with the same order and also caught my eye.
LaGuardia by Nnedi Okorafor, Tana Ford, and James Devlin. Berger Books/Dark Horse, 2019. 9781506710754
In a not-too-distant future, aliens – many of them sentient plants – have arrived in the world, with Nigeria as their base. Professor Citizen Raphael Nwabara tends to large numbers of these plants at his apartment, while perhaps secretly being a human separatist, and definitely pulling any green shoots from his beard. Meanwhile, his pregnant fiancee, physician Future Nwafor Chukwuekuba is coming back to her grandmother in New York without telling him – harboring a tiny sentient plant who calls itself Letme Live, with troubles of its own. The scanning at LaGuardia is intrusive and offensive (though this is only a brief part of the story, inspired by the author’s own experiences there), and the hospital her parents once worked at is now treating only humans, despite the large numbers of aliens living there. Alien technology could help with many of people’s problems, but suspicions are high and protests grow as politicians try to shut down borders.
This is by its nature more of a short story than a novel, and so just doesn’t have room for the depth I’m used to from Okorafor. I do like the social commentary on our current treatment of “aliens” who are just other people, when maybe if there were actual aliens, we’d still be better off approaching with compassion and an open mind. The main characters here are all people of color or aliens, and they are drawn beautifully by Tana Ford – pregnant Future is beautiful and so beautifully confident and powerful, though Ford is also able to show Letme’s emotions. The scenes of so many diverse creatures working together for change is inspiring, so while this isn’t my favorite of Okorafor’s works, I’m glad I read it.
Self/Made volume 1 by Mat Groom, Eduardo Ferigato, and Marcelo Costa. Image, 2019. 978-1534312272
Amala, a fierce female warrior, is the last of her unit left after an attack. She joins forces with an arrogant hero, but turns on him when she decides he isn’t on the side of right – multiple times as the scene replays. The scene cuts to us finding out that this is a video game. Amala is an NPC who’s turned on the developer playing the hero – just as arrogant and furious in real life as he was in the game. He tells the coder, Rebecca, to delete her.
But Rebecca, an older woman with limited social skills, who’s turned down advancement opportunities to work on her character building, would rather lose her job than Amala. She steals Amala and puts her in a robotic body. But what happens when Amala figures out she wasn’t meant to be a real person?
So, this is not the groundbreaking story the creators seem to think it is – reflections on how human an AI can be have been going on for decades, and Murderbot has a much more rounded-out character than Amala. And a white man writing about a white woman creating a woman of color who struggles for her own freedom gives me pause. Still, if you want a high-action story about women fighting obnoxious, entitled men, with a side of the personhood of AIs, you could do worse than this one.
Both of these are in the adult section more because of being about adult characters than about anything that parents of teens are likely to find objectionable – there is some violent death in Self/Made, but it’s pretty minimal for an action comic. I offered both of these to my son to read, though he was too busy reading They Called Us Enemy to get to them.