clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

O Human Star is the best robot comic in a decade

Blue Delliquanti webcomic fills in the gaps of the sci-fi genre

O Human Star is a webcomic about robots trying to understand their own identities and find a place alongside humanity — and that might feel like a familiar story to a sci-fi aficionado. But creator Blue Delliquanti’s series is one of the most unique and imaginative comics of the decade.

A tale of one very peculiar family living after the artificial intelligence singularity, O Human Star delves into complex themes of gender and the need to belong, weaving them into a story that’s hard to talk about without giving up some major spoilers — but we’ll do our best.

Who makes O Human Star?

The Lambda award-nominated comic is written and drawn entirely by Blue Delliquanti (who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns). You might have seen their work on Meal with Soleil Ho from Iron Circus Comics, but O Human Star is Delliquanti’s personal baby, serialized and published independently since 2012.

What is O Human Star about?

O Human Star: Alistair Sterling wakes up Image: Blue Delliquanti

Sixteen years after his untimely death, genius engineer Alistair Sterling has reawoken in an android body with no clue who gave him a second chance at life. Reunited with his former — cough — business partner Brendan, Al soon meets Sulla, a teenage android whose identity was based on a copy of Al’s brain — but Sulla is a girl.

What follows is a decades-spanning personal history of this post-singularity family, diving into their deepest loves, darkest fears, and the crannies of identity that are only shown in private. As Al searches for answers about who created his new body, Sulla confronts her desire to connect with human teenagers and her fear of being outed as an android; meanwhile, readers take an extended trip down memory lane (told in shades of warm orange, contrasting with the “present” timeline’s moody blues) to understand Brendan and Al’s rocky romance and how everything is inextricably connected.

Why read it now?

With O Human Star currently in its final chapter and one last Kickstarter underway for its third collected edition, there’s no better time for readers to get in on this quietly groundbreaking graphic novel. There are works of fiction that are timely, and then there are complex, emotive explorations of gender identity and internalized self-hatred by a nonbinary creator at a time when transgender lives are among the most visible political footballs of the day.

O Human Star is one of the most sociopolitically relevant works of the past ten years, a feat Delliquanti manages while still imbuing their characters with life and vigor, immediately endearing themselves to the reader. It’s impossible not to cheer Sulla on as she nervously makes friends with a gaggle of engineering students, or to weep for Al as his emotional armor slowly falls apart — and just as impossible to walk away without seeing how Delliquanti draws parallels between their sci-fi timeline and ours.

What makes O Human Star good?

A robot puts together a broken machine in O Human Star Image: Blue Delliquanti

Think about the last time you read a story in which a robot had a gender that was discussed in any way. We’re familiar with artificial intelligences who perform gender like Marvel Comics’ Vision and Jocasta, DC’s Red Tornado and the Metal Men, and Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But those character’s genders are almost always taken for granted, not subjected to any narrative analysis or scrutiny.

That’s striking for a genre of stories that’s been concerned for decades with asking questions about identity: how it’s constructed and reinforced, what it means to change one’s self, whether changing the “programming” of the self is even possible. Delliquanti’s intimate story fills in those genre gaps, poking in the corners most other creators seem to rush past. You don’t just want these characters to be happy, you want them to find self-actualization, because maybe that means there’s hope for us all.

One page that pops?

O Human Star: two characters connect over disparate panels Image: Blue Delliquanti