Josh Trujillo again brings us his musings about the relationship between man and machine in his anthology series 'Love Machines'. However, as is true for any anthology given enough time, there are inevitably installments that fall a little flat, and this feels like the case here. As usual, Trujillo writes two stories illustrated by different artists. The first, 'Hero and Leander', is a fictionalized version of real life supercomputer chatbot experiments that provoked a flurry of speculation and debate over the advancements of artificial intelligence during the 60's and 70's. In this story, we find ourselves in the middle of a public presentation by two computer labs preparing their separate supercomputer chatbots to engage in the first computer to computer conversation.
The better of the two stories, 'Hero and Leander' has a satirical tone. The wild spectacle of the publicity blitz spins up a storm while the real scientists doing the work behind the scenes bemoan the pop science the public makes out of their work. The art, by Kate Glasheen, has a unique feel to it, with exaggerated cartoon gestures evened out with inkwash monochrome and thin gestural penstrokes, with stumpy paw like hands and sparse detail that might remind some of the look Frank Miller adopted in parts of his 'Dark Knight Returns'. With some nice parallels between the human characters and their AI counterparts, it's a simple but intriguing story kernel, couched in a confident art style. Not the most memorable, but certainly in line with what I've come to expect from this series.
The second story, 'Sandy Andy' on the other hand, was a bit of a headscratcher for me. A boy wanders into the decaying ruins left over from a historic International Exposition where he finds mysterious occupants. A great premise to be sure, but the resulting story left me unsure what I was supposed to pull from it. Consulting Trujillo's accompanying author's notes that usually give insight into his inspiration gave little illumination to the meaning of the story. I've reread it a few times and came up with little more than trying to fit what story there is into the neat box of similar cliches. It doesn't insult your intelligence or inflate its own, but I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to feel or think and could not for certain say that that seemed like the point either.
'Love Machines' #4 isn't bad, I simply found myself without any strong feelings towards anything in it, a first for the series. However, in no way does Trujillo undershoot his usual ambitions. He continues a tradition of never making me feel as if both stories are written by the same person. By this point in any self-written anthology series, most would have turned self-indulgent and self-congratulatory, but Trujillo continues to write small smart stories that don't try to reach beyond their grasp, but reach none-the-less. Not every issue can be a winner, but with this anthology series they are always worth giving a shot.
Love Machines #4 Writer: Josh Trujillo Artists: Various Publisher: Lost His Keys Man Comics Website: JoshTrujillo.com