This month Lion Forge is releasing the first printed edition of Ezra Claytan Daniels’s Upgrade Soul, a startling work of science fiction that had been originally developed as an semi-immersive digital experience. The work, begun in 2012, was built using Eric Loyer’s Opertoon engine, resulting in a digital comic with many of the transition features that we’ve seen in comics like Marvel’s Infinite comics line, but with the addition of an original musical score coordinated with the viewer’s interaction. Sounds cool. Unfortunately, I speak not from experience, but solely from what I’ve gleaned online; the digital app version of Upgrade Soul is no longer compatible with the current iOS and has since been unavailable for download.
The very fact, however, that Daniels’s work had been originally developed and published in this manner made me a little leery regarding the print version, despite the accolades (which include a 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award For Diversity In Comics). The comics medium, when fully realized, considers the delivery method and presentation as vital partners to story and art. If this was intended to be consumed a certain way… would a different package offer a sub-optimal view of the cartoonist’s vision? I’ve seen what happens when the aforementioned Infinite Comics (which, granted, aren’t any good to begin with) or even certain webcomics get translated to the page: awkward extra panels, skewed layouts, and just a general lack of continuity. They often feel like something not meant to see a printed page.
Luckily I ignored those reservations and dove in. Daniels’s book is one of the best comics I’ve read in 2018, and one of the best works of science-fiction — in any medium — that I’ve experienced in years.