‘D4VE’ #1 Comic Review
“Getting married, having a few kids, buying some stuff, retiring to Florida, and dying,” as the popular game Cards Against Humanity puts it, describes the vicious cycle of stagnancy that comes with complacency and contentment. It’s the real American dream, except that no one will ever admit it. Clearly, your mileage may vary, but we enter our adult lives with remnants of youthful panache, conditioned to believe that we can achieve whatever we want—so long as we put our minds to it and work extremely hard—only to settle somewhere down the path of least resistance. We shoot for the stars and settle for slightly higher ground because well… it’s just easier that way. It’s as if the only way to hang on to that enthusiastic “can-do” attitude is through constant adversity, lest we find ourselves on the nine-to-five hamster wheel.
Take D4VE (pronounced “Dave”), for example. Once a powerful and respected Defense-bot, tasked with eradicating the human race—and any other intergalactic threats—D4VE now has a comfortable desk job (complete with low self-esteem and a boss who hates him), a home with a wife who derides him incessantly, and a kid who doesn’t even know he exists. He longs for the glory days with an “I used to be somebody” attitude, can’t remember to perform even the most mundane of everyday tasks, drowns his sorrows in oil to forget about the banality of everyday life, and existentially gazes at the stars to find the meaning of it all. It’s Groundhog Day; wash, rinse, repeat. Despite being a robot that, programmed by us, killed all of us, D4VE is one of us. He’s relatable.
That relatability is the core strength of D4VE #1, written by Ryan Ferrier (who also handles the lettering duties) and illustrated by Valentin Ramon. D4VE’s office environment is its own familiar ecosystem; a dry, dangerous battery-draining environment where potential goes to die. In some form or another, we’ve all known the guy in the office who’s always doling out nicknames and ready to party. Everyone has had at least one overbearing jerk boss who peaked somewhere around middle management, destroying employee morale while power tripping on a middle class income.
Ferrier’s dialogue is comedic and clever, using and contextualizing computer jargon like “force-quit” and “the blue screen of death” in ways that even the most technologically impaired of luddites can understand. Even the most brief character interactions are natural and demonstrate that the characters have history together. The pieces all fit together to establish existing relationships without resorting to lengthy exposition, instead relying on regular types of conversations to create a sense of familiarity.
In the absence of their human overlords, the robots adopt their habits and culture, filling the vacuum left by their extinction and adapting mankind’s customs to their own physiology. Robots ingest high octane oil when they want to let loose. They hold jobs, take wives, have custom-ordered, manufactured children, and live with mechanical pets. A social hierarchy exists consisting of homeless robots, successful business robots, and counterculture robots. At the end of the day, Ferrier’s flawed robotic earth is more reminiscent of the world they’d worked so hard to eliminate than the well oiled utopia they’d hoped for.
Valentin Ramon is a relative unknown in the comics world, and D4VE is an impressive introduction to his work. With a knack for character design, Ramon’s robot world is both uniquely strange and recognizable. Each robots’ individuality is clearly conveyed through their posture, wardrobe, and body language. The slumped over, downtrodden, paper-pushing D4VE of today looks so opposite the stiff-backed, confident, ass-kicking D4VE of daydreams that the two might as well be completely different characters. Ramon also carries a fair amount of the storytelling weight, enriching and realizing Ferrier’s world with visual cues that show the reader that this is the way things are now, and this is how they will remain for some time.
If there’s one gripe about the book, it’s the ending of the first issue. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s a fault of the writing or a poor artistic choice, but the last page doesn’t lead anywhere. The reader is left with some intriguing unanswered questions, but the “Oh shit!” moment of the book just isn’t satisfying enough.
One part Office Space, one part Terminator, and a little bit of Breaking Bad, and you more or less end up with D4VE. It’s a story about figuring out where you fit in after your old life has been rendered obsolete, settling for less, and hungering for more. Despite stumbling towards the end of the first issue, it’s a good book with a lot of room for growth and excitement as we learn more about D4VE and the world he lives in.