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Pixels of You

Writers: Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota
Artist: J R Doyle
Colorist/ Letterer: Tess Stone
Flats: Fen Garza
Amulet Books
$16.99 (SC) / $22.99 (HC)

Pixels Of You is a YA graphic novel that relates the story of two young women, Indira and Fawn, who over the course of the story go from being rival photographers to becoming lovers. Their meet cute just happens to involve a couple of loud and bluntly honest outbursts during crowded exhibits of their work which leads no nonsense gallery owner Paloma to force the pair to work together or else!

The pair couldn’t be more different. Indira is confident and rough around the edges. Fawn is introspective and wants to be liked. It’s the sort of tension and clash that many a romance story is grounded on. As a romance alone Indira’s and Fawn’s story would make for a satisfying read but what makes Pixels Of You different is its near future setting where AI has become prevalent in society. Its pervasiveness isn’t without problems though and the creative team of Ananth Hirsh, Yuko Ota, and J R Doyle uses this soft sci fi backdrop to explore issues of identity, bias, and the capacity for love as they intersect with technology. Personality differences aside, the other significant hurdle between them is the fact that Indira is human while Fawn is an AI being.

Reading over the course of the book as the pair navigates their changing relationship two lines of dialog in the script on which the story hangs stood out to me. The first line is a saying Indira’s mother told her that “[…] hurt is the friction of a million souls smoothing each other out”. The hurt Indira experiences daily, both physically and psychologically as PTSD, stems from a horrific accident ten years prior and letting people into her life since then has been difficult. The second bit of dialog is a question Fawn poses to Indira: “Does the unknown intimidate you?” It’s a question Fawn must contemplate often because she simply wants to fit and that proves to be a challenge as one of a new generation of AI beings presenting as human thanks to the innovative “natural chassis”. Viewed with suspicion by some humans and judged as egotistical by some “basic” AI beings leads to feelings of isolation.

Technology is always rapidly advancing while humanity is often left to catch up with it. The creators placed brief accounts of recent incidents involving the impact of AI in the real world as a sort of koan to prompt reader reflection on this phenomenon. Rising from this context my curiosity about the authors’ decision to make Indira and Fawn photographers was piqued and I recalled learning during my art college years how for decades after photography’s invention it was viewed with disdain as being too mechanical and devoid of the human hand and spirit. As with other art forms, photography was once male dominated and limited to those who had the means. This certainly isn’t the case today with high def cameras conveniently packaged in phones. Further inquisitiveness led me to a short clip of the authors talking about the project. Hirsh recounts an incident of walking in Soho and seeing a street photographer, a woman of South Asian descent, which led him to question how perspective changes depending on who’s behind the camera. The question is a valid one of course and with Indira and Fawn the difference is summed succinctly in their initial reactions to the other’s work: selfish and infuriating to Fawn and safe and boring to Indira.

J R Doyle’s style is an inviting one with an expressive gestural quality bearing manga influences. Working in tandem on the coloring, Tess Stone and Fen Garza use a lightly rendered, decorative color palette to convey mood and denote physical space. The overall sense is a calming one which enhances various interactions including, oddly enough, tension filled moments.

Pixels Of You raises many ideas while inviting the reader to contemplate. The book should appeal to readers who appreciate romance, soft sci fi, and introspective character driven stories in general. Due to an industry wide paper shortage this graphic novel has been scheduled for release on February 8th, 2022 from its original early November date. Gay League hopes you’ll keep Pixels Of You on your radar or set a reminder on your calendar. Ask your favorite bookshop to order a copy with the ISBN 978-1-4197-5281-0. Diamond order codes are SEP211233 for the softcover edition and SEP211233 for the hardcover. Copies can be purchased from Amazon as well.

October 14, 2021
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