In the previous issue, lingering tension mounted as Jesse’s insecurities over their identity pushed them towards two renegade teenagers with worrying motives and a climactic reveal of a homemade arsenal.
In issue #3, danger continues to escalate without pause, as Jesse’s new friends’ scheme begins to unfold. All the while Jesse’s adoptive parents struggle to reassure the android in the midst of a bursting identity crisis, stemming from their first experience with making friends — an experience that proves to be more difficult to their supercomputer sized brain than absorbing an entire library.
Against the backdrop of what seems to be a childless or maybe semi-childless world (a popular theme and a prevalent vision of the future from many science fiction creators), Jesse, a robot and an immigrant of sorts to the great wide world of humanity, struggles with notions of self just like the rest of us. In regard to the ever-present question on consciousness and soul, the summation is that it doesn’t particularly matter, because as Holt makes it plain to the reader, Jesse is a kiddo first and robot second.
This is emphasized succinctly by the mere fact that Jesse has favorite books — can you imagine anything more endearing than a fledgling android learning to grow and mature through their love of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders? These human characterizations of Jesse’s experiences as an android and in many ways intrinsically as a member of the Korean diaspora make a profound a lens as ever was.
Things continue to happen fast, as issue #3 sweeps Jesse into the unfamiliar political landscape that frames the world of Made in Korea; this issue signs off on another cliffhanger, upping the ante exponentially, with Jesse’s safety in the hands of two people who have thus far only found worth in Jesse as a means to fulfill their own ends. It’s in the vein of Children of Men or The Handmaid’s Tale — a future without children is a future where children will not have to suffer through the horrors of mankind and a dying planet — a common leitmotif and tone to those types of dystopian stories; but instead of a bleak outlook of decay, Jeremy Holt and George Schall might be making a counterargument to that assertion (or maybe Jesse’s world just hasn’t gone to hell…yet).
Schall’s art is easy to look at in all the best ways. Classic and simple design atop neat paneling elicits a certain nostalgic quality evocative of Ben-Day dots printed via a dot matrix printer, soft pastel color schemes and shading/depth expressed through varying intensities of wavy parallel lines.
There seems to be an easy path forward for the narrative, but so far, Holt has proved adept at throwing wild curveballs. There is a piece of this that could follow a predictable line of narrative considering Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence already exists and this story so far involves many of the same themes and concepts (albeit explored in much different ways), but where Made in Korea is going to go, feels perfectly unpredictable.
Maybe, in one of the potentially thousands of books Jesse read, the supercomputer took some inspiration from Meredith “Merry” Levov, or maybe the blend of that viscerally vulnerable longing to make friends combined with literally only being a few days old does not lend itself well to sound judgement calls. The on-page sense of impending disaster feels like a growing tidal wave that you can see on the horizon. Exactly what Holt plans to do with that beats me, but damn is it exhilarating.
(P.S. Each issue has thus far also included individual back-up features that range from world-building informationals to straight-up pieces of words-and-pictures poetry, #3 being no exception.)
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