If you could become a better you, would you?
That is the basis of this beautifully written and drawn graphic novel by Ezra Claytan Daniels. Hank and Molly are an older couple, one having inherited a fortune and the rights to a character in the entertainment industry, and the other a brilliantly known geneticist. Molly has a direct hand in the field of science, with Hank being a deep pocket in support of research. A chance encounter leads to the two becoming involved in an underground research project that intrigues the two and prompts them to become the test subjects.
The Upgrade project aims to take the aging bodies of Hank and Molly to create something better, stronger, and practically immortal. The project is clearly dangerous, but Hank and Molly see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity and ultimately decide to give their bodies to this experiment in the hopes of becoming strong healthier versions of themselves. A better them. What awaits them after the experiment, although much more capable than their original bodies, comes this terrible realization over the horrors of encountering something far better at being you than you.
The grainy looking texture of the art gives the atmosphere this almost soft and tender feeling when reading, which definitely helps in making the plot raise the hairs on your arms when the plot is anything but gentle. The detail of the character only adds to this feeling when Molly and Hank are seen after the experiment in. which they appear so frail, as though their life-force was sucked out of them, making the results of the experiment even scarier for their larger plump looking bodies. Despite their appearance, the doppelgangers, if you can call them that, are far more superior to the original bodies in strength, intelligence, and health. Molly’s mind is deteriorating whereas Manuela’s is flourishing with memories of things she has never truly experienced herself. Hank’s fight against destroying the black body of his book character is questioned by Henry, who points out changing times, infuriating Hank. There is growing tension between the originals and their counterparts, as though the new bodies are slowly finding ways to snuff out the originals.
There is honestly so many characters, but Ezra is able to perfectly capture all of these personalities and struggles, especially when their lives start to connect through situation and emotional connection. You can feel the plot getting up a cliff that makes you plummet at a certain point, creating such an emotional response that you can’t help but feel for these characters, whether you despise them or wish for them to make it out of their struggles in one piece.
Based in Los Angeles, Ezra Claytan Daniels is an illustrator and artist known for his work, The Changers. His latest work, Upgrade Soul, was a recipient of the Dwayne McDuffie Award and was listed in Publisher Weekly’s Top Books of 2018.
You can follow Ezra on Twitter.