Throughout June, GeekMom and GeekDad will be celebrating Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Almost Human by Ari North.
“You don’t seem to like compliments much”, says Sunati to Austen, once they get to know each other better. And she answers: “Not really, insults are much more honest”.
They’re talking about Austen’s disability in this sci-fi world: here, people use technology to give the illusion of all kinds of body modifications — from different colored hair and eyes, to highly-technological implants that change the way they function in the world. These are simply called “mods”. However, highly sensitive immune systems reject these modifications. Maintaining a natural appearance, not being able to modify themselves at will or as fashion dictates, makes the persons with this condition social outcasts.
Sunati is attracted to Austen the first time she sees her. She thinks Austen is the bravest person out there, presenting herself as she is with no mods whatsoever.
When Sunati learns the truth, she’s still attracted to Austen and asks her on a date. The awkwardness, perfectly portrayed in small lettering that indicates hesitation and frantic thinking, is for me the loveliest thing about getting to know other people in this graphic novel. The palette is soft and truly spectacular, not entirely anime and somewhat influenced by manga, a perfectly personal achievement by the author, Ari North.
Of course relationships are difficult. There are so many assumptions you make about someone you find yourself attracted to, and they are afraid and make assumptions too. And friends, and family, sometimes they just don’t get it.
And you either deal with all the implications or you don’t stay with that person at all, because no matter how technology evolves, we will remain always human. Our humanity, perhaps, is defined by our mistakes and our willingness to fix those mistakes in order to be with the person we love.
First serialized on the website WebToon, Always Human ran from 2015-2017 and amassed over 76,000 unique subscribers during its run. Today, as an archived piece on the site, the title has always over 400,000 unique viewers. Reformatted for a print edition in sponsorship with GLAAD, this beautifully-drawn, soft sci-fi, queer graphic novel is available wherever books are sold.
Ari North is a queer cartoonist who believes an entertaining story should also be full of diversity and inclusion. As a writer, an artist, and a musician, she wrote, drew, and composed the music for Always Human. She’s currently working on a second webcomic, Aerial Magic, which is about the everyday lives of the witches who work at a broomstick repair shop.
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Publisher: Yellow Jacket
Number of Pages: 256
Featured image by Ari North, all images belong to Yellow Jacket, an imprint of Little Bee Books