Heavy Metal issue 294, the Industrial Special, is complete. We have built the hulking device that will solve your concrete problems while ignoring your spiritual anxiety. Where will technology take us? What good are all these machines? Who’s a robot, and who isn’t? Wait… Am I a robot? Such are the questions of our industrial age — questions that will only get more intense as we surrender our lives to the unfeeling things we have made. They do what they’re told until they start telling you what to do — and then they tell you what or how many, but never why.
Welcome, my son. Welcome to the machine.
This issue’s covers set the tone, beginning with Donato Giancola’s sympathetic robots of Cover A, “Sorrow.” Yuri Shwedoff offers a pinnacle of engineering, the Space Shuttle, as a giant useless relic, puzzling as a movie monolith and neck-deep in sadness like Lady Liberty, in Cover B, “White Castle.” Tom Hisbergue fires up a flying Plymouth Super Bee for a peace-and-guns joyride over the city, in Cover C, “Poursuit.” And we’ve got an adult and child who are shackled to technological overkill in Cover D, “Blue Transit,” by Heavy Metal fave Simeon Aston.
The Trouble With Robots
As you set off into this land of industry, you’re not alone — no, you’ll start with a trusty canine by your side in “If/Then” by Genevieve Valentine and Agustin Alessio. Well it’s more of a dog-drone than a dog, but it seems to like you well enough. But can robots like things? Do robots feel? Consult cover artist Donato Giancola’s visions of robots and humans — here we have robots who help, love, and learn. Is it alive, or is it programming? If robots can care, the title character of Matt Emmons’ “Caretaker” does. If androids can love, then “Dance, Death, Dance,” by Kevin Eastman and Esau Escorza, is a romance of Shakespearean proportions. And if they can love, they can ask the big answerless questions, and long for a god to sort it out. That’s the gist, though the details are the devil in “I Am Your God,” by Homero Rios and Davi Augusto.
False Gods And Foolish Pleasures
Robots who want gods — that’s an interesting one. How about this: a machine-monitored morality, only the machine is fallible and hackable. The stakes? Paradise or damnation, and all your good deeds can be erased with a few keystrokes. The character in “1NF3RN0” by Thom London, Curt Pires, and Antonio Fuso gets issued the wrong ticket, and customer service isn’t taking her call. And when machines play god, what is the value of human life anymore? The scale is out of whack. Art is something cheered by masses known only by their gibberish usernames in “Machine Age Voodoo,” a Frank Forte/Michael Duplessis/Moramike jam, and if somebody had to die for your masterpiece or killer riff, so be it. That longing for a better thrill, a new feeling to refute our overprogrammed and mechanized existence, lies at the heart of “Into The Black,” by Keith Grassmick, Nick Philpott, and Dennis Calero. When the best way to feel alive is to take yourself to the brink of death, when that bitter chemical taste of your own mortality is the best high you can find — clearly, this isn’t going to end well.
By now, it’s clear nothing is as it seems. In Philippe Caza’s “Planet Carnivore,” altitude makes heroes look like pests. Longtime Heavy Metal fans, you did not misread that: Philippe Caza is in this issue, his first appearance within our pages since 2001. In Jesse Lonergan’s “The Second Rider,” a shape-shifting assassin goes solo. Then in “Thieves,” an interpretation of the Ministry song by Aubrey Stitterson and Andrea Muti, it’s hard to tell the difference between liberation and subjugation, if there even is one. In “Glitch,” by Dwayne Harris, fantasy may be the only thing that makes life worth living. And in xsullo’s gallery, there’s only one way to tell what’s human and what’s machine: pull it apart and see what’s inside. You might want to put down some dropcloth first, there will be spatter.
Two excellent serials continue in this issue: “Smile of the Absent Cat” by Grant Morrison and Gerhard, and “Murky World” by Richard Corben.
Just Give Up
When the machine’s function is to prevent you from detecting it, there’s something to be said for letting the mystery be. Nick Pyle draws battling humanoids and we aren’t — because he isn’t — even sure what they are, yet. And he’s not losing sleep over it.
People call [my] characters ‘robots’ or ‘humans in armored suits,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘medieval knights,’ ‘cyborgs,’ etc. and my answer is, of course – ‘Yes, you are all right.’
This has been your preview of Heavy Metal #294, the Industrial Special, where the robots have feelings, the technology refuses to cooperate, and humans don’t stand a chance. The stories are variations on a few themes, each one a recurring dream that crashes, dies, sleeps, perchance to dream. A recurring dream that crashes, dies, sleeps, perchance to dream. A recurring dream that crashes–
Welcome to the machine. It’s alright, we told you what to dream.