Reading Made In Korea #2 felt similar to watching an episode of Black Mirror. Not only does it masterfully execute a modern sci-fi story about the boundaries between technology and human nature, but it forces the reader to question the meaning of life as we know it.
What does it really mean to be a parent or a guardian? What do intimacy and connection look like? The answers to these questions vary depending on each person’s circumstance, but there’s no denying that watching Jesse unravel these meanings for herself is both fascinating and horrifying.
Holt explores the need for social connection, in particular Jesse’s, a robotic-human proxy designed to cater to her parents by playing the role of a daughter. It’s ironic that the same machine designed to satisfy other people’s desire for a nurturing relationship is seeking the same touch from others.
After all, obsessively and abnormally speed reading through hundreds of books, absorbing thousands of facts and cultural appropriations, will inevitably make a robot realize they’re missing the whole point of existence. This presents a new tension between Jesse’s parents, resulting in the decision to send Jesse to school.
Naturally, this results in a naive hope as Jesse is forced to learn that being a literal genius puts a massive gap between herself and others. Even her teacher recognizes that Jesse is different and catering to her knowledge is seemingly impossible. In a scene where Jesse is mockingly called “Pinocchio” by a student, it brings dichotomies of intelligent versus stupid, natural talent versus hard work, a puppet or an individual thinker.
Jesse isn’t the only one struggling. Even her creator, Chul, has awoken with a newfound desire for parenthood. Whether it’s a genuine desire to fix and potentially connect with his defective proxy or a desperate attempt for control, only time will tell. But it’s clear to see that the theme of human connection is at the core of almost every interaction throughout Made In Korea #2 and Holt’s storytelling perfectly captures this complex experience, unafraid to show the consequences of an obsessed search for relationship in a confronting and ominous ending.
Schall’s clean, minimalistic art portrays the story in a simple, yet relatable way. The excitement on Jesse’s face as she visits a public library for the first time, a stubborn swig of beer as Chul denies the consequences of his actions, a bewildered expression on a teacher’s face as she witnesses a prodigy — all of these interactions add emotion to Made In Korea #2, making it not only a stimulating book to engage in, but a visually satisfying one, too.
Compared to the loneliness in issue #1, many of the panels in this issue portray Jesse with crowds of people. Whether it’s her sitting in a classroom, in a bus, or in a cafeteria, this visual contrast against backdrops of what should be accessible conversation shows that Jesse still lacks what she desires. Schall’s muted colors like light oranges, greens, and pinks also create picturesque panels and allow the eyes to easily follow the events.
Made In Korea #2 continues to engage in an intelligent conversation with the reader about the definition of human connection. It isn’t afraid to tackle its mature themes with heavy questions about our relationships and shared experiences. Although it can be an eerie tone, a discerned reader will appreciate the layers that Made In Korea #2 explores and it’s only a matter of time before we see what truly happens when Jesse is activated.
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