Review: I Feel Machine (SelfMadeHero)

The success of an anthology title is often dependent on the quality of the creators involved, and I Feel Machine, a new anthology from SelfMadeHero has one of the best line ups of creators we’ve seen for some time, with exclusive new work from the likes of Box Brown, Tillie Walden and Shaun Tan, who are all exploring the darker side of technology.

Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Writer/Artists: Box Brown, Erik Svetoft, Shaun Tan, Tillie Walden, Julian Hanshaw, Krent Able
Price: £14.99 from SelfMadeHero Online Store

I Feel Machine is the brainchild of creators Julian Hanshaw and Krent Able and brings together some of indie comics most innovative and accomplished names to create a dark and surreal looks at technology. It’s a mix of future gazing, alien worlds and contemporary tales of caution, but one thing all six stories have in common is a refusal to be conventional which leads to some truly astounding work that pushes the boundaries of story telling while making you think abut the world around you.

We start with Box Browns Uploading which looks at a world where adults consciousnesses are uploaded to a central server. It creates this strange look at the way the physical world and virtual world can co-exist and how people can aspire for one at the expense of the other. But of course it is all done in Box’s own unique style with his simplistic, yet immaculately constructed panels and designs giving the story  50s sci-fi vibe to its visuals while also feeling utterly contemporary.

This is followed Erik Svetofts STHLMTRANSFER, which is an almost wordless story about two investigator type characters who retrieve social media files and chat transcripts for money. On one hand this feels like a fantastic idea for a very gritty crime noir type story, but Erik prefers to focus on a more conceptual story and the star of this story is the strange mixing of technology and the human form in the visuals to create some really unsettling images (such as a smart phone embedded into the skin of someone’s hand or a connector cable in their neck). It means that the  subtle story can disappear into the background as you admire the intricate concepts in every panel.

Perhaps the star of the whole show though is Shaun Tan’s incredible, Here I Am, the story of a young girl who loves on a plant of aliens and a mysterious space ship arrives with a young boy arrives and wants to take her home to his own planet. All of which is a very charming tale about the nature of family and belonging, but is brought to life by some truly breathtaking visuals. Tan’s work feels like it is drawn with coloured pencils, but every panel is packed with so much detail and utterly staggering compositions that it makes every panel, into a truly sublime work of art. From the space craft that looks like a giant human (but has a smaller human inside) to an utterly breathtaking picture of the small girl and her oversizes mother, It has an almost picture book quality to it and the characterisation of the alien world is a mix of fantastical beats and strange customs that strangely reminded us of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. It’s a timely reminder that sci-fi and doesn’t have to be all about shiny surfaces and hi-tech and is utterly wonderful and has made us a instant fan of tans work for sure

Tillie Walden’s offering is another thoughtful piece about a world where mobile phones stop working and how people are forced to replace digital dependance with human intimacy, and is notable for Walden’s surreal approach to the artwork which sees her render the story using a majority of quite abstract patterns and concepts that look like stars in the galaxy or even blood platelets swarming around the body. It’s another fantastically unconventional way of telling a sci-fi story and although perhaps not as accessible as some of her work is a great showcase of original brand of storytelling.

The final two stories see co-editor Hanshaw and Krent Able stretch their creative muscles on two very diverse stories. Hanshaw has created a strange work involving a boy his chicken and a projector which is a very odd world that seems to marry old fashioned values and modern technology to create this strange allegory about not letting one affect the other. While able wraps things up with a dark satire on teenagers and the internet which brings the book to the end with nightmare inducing conclusion that feels all to close to our current world.

With each story being given plenty of room to explore its ideas fully, I Feel Machine feels more like a collection of one shots than itioan antholgy and with the calibration of creators on show this allows them to fells explore quite complex ideas in a very interesting way, without being ham strung by a short page count. For fans of any of the individuals involved this is a book well worth picking up. And for those who might never have heard of some of these creators it is a fantastic opportunity to explore so,e of their more interesting and ex icing creations and see how they work when the gloves are off the world is there to be explored.  So open your mind and enter the machine