"Same Difference" by Derek Kirk Kim

Derek Kirk Kim's graphic novel "Same Difference" involves two parallel stories of college friends, Simon and Nancy. The book is essentially a short story, taking place over only a couple of days.

They start out in a cluttered but comfortable pho restaurant, and it ends in the wide open spaces of the beach and the night sky. From the restaurant, Simon sees Irene Cook, a friend of his from high school who once asked him to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance, but he lied to get out of it because she is blind.  Meanwhile, it's revealed that Nancy has been toying with the emotions of a guy named Ben Leland, who is infatuated with the woman who used to live in Nancy's apartment.

In the course of the story, both Simon and Nancy are offered easy chances at redemption, but they stumble along the way, afraid to do the right thing because it will expose their lies.

The dialog is chatty, but like Kim's other works, the characters were interesting enough that I was compelled to keep reading.  Also, there's always at least one or two dialogue-free panels per page, leaving space for reaction and reflection.

I loved the introduction by Gene Yang  ("American Born Chinese") as well as the afterword by Kim himself. Kim explains some of his process in writing, and what "Same Difference" meant to him:
No matter what I do in the future, "Same Difference will always be my most significant work. Not the most complex or proficient, and hopefully not the best, but the most significant...Same Difference gave me my own voice. For the first time, the creative process became an honest, organic channeling of myself.

Although the artwork is uneven at times, and as Kim mentions in the afterword, he even had to redraw Simon's nose on nearly every page, the resulting work truly is an honest and engaging story.
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"Philip K. Dick's Electric Ant" by David Mack and Pascal Alixe

I've been re-reading all of Philip K. Dick's novels, so as a pause I decided to get the comic book adaptation of "Electric Ant." Based on the 1969 short story published in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Garson Poole is the owner of Tri-Plan Electronics, a company that develops hi-tech weapons systems. After a car accident the doctors tell him he's an electric ant, an organic robot, "a precursor to the more modern replicant."

Naturally, this is disturbing news and Garson not only has trouble breaking it to his girlfriend, but it also makes him doubt his purpose as "owner" of the company, and his very existence. Prying open a seam in his chest he discovers a spaghetti of components, including a spool of punched tape which seems to control his senses, or possibly even his reality. He begins to tinker with the tape, covering over some holes, adding new ones, and that's when reality begins to break down.  The ending, like "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch," is ambiguous, but slightly hopeful. We are left with the impression that Garson Poole has transcended this reality.

With flying cars and a light touch of Film Noir retro, David Mack does a good job of incorporating the modern interpretation of PKD into the story.  I liked the TV blurb "...this segment of the Palmer Eldritch Empathy Hour brought to you by Perky Pats."  I have not read the short story (it's on my list of "to do"s), but I gather from summaries that it has a slightly different ending than the comic.

Pascal Alixe's art, at first, was disturbing to me. The blocky human figures with heavy dark lines felt rough, more like a WPA mural from the '30s.  But the style grew on me, and it felt appropriate to the theme. As Poole explores his body, and the dissolving reality around him some forms become more organic, and Alixe even throws in some Dali-like melting objects.

Published in 2010 by Marvel Comics, the book includes the covers by Paul Pope, and a sketchbook at the end, but no other commentary on the work. They credit Brian Michael Bendis as a consulting editor.  They also give thanks to the Dick estate, and refer to Electric Shepherd Productions .
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