Mad Science In The Miraculous Future: “Dresden Codak” by Aaron Diaz

When I reviewed Accelerando by Charles Stross last December, I spoke a little about my views about the technological singularity that many believe will come about thanks to the ever-increasing processing power of computers.  I still don’t buy the concept, though I can understand why others do.

It was that same skepticism to made me reluctant to get into Aaron Diaz’s webcomic Dresden Codak, which has a protagonist who is very much a Singularitarian.  However, once I started reading, I found that it wasn’t a blind faith in the Singularity concept and that the lead was a fallible but likable character.  And that’s when I really started to pay attention…

The Story: The Future Can Hardly Wait!

Kim Ross is a young woman and aspiring scientist who very much wants to run experiments, build impossible machines, and live in a world dominated by everything that science and science fiction promised.  However, she soon finds herself in the middle of a quirky plot involving time travelers attempting to colonize present-day Earth.  She also has trouble trying to keep up her social life despite having two good friends who worry about her mental health, which becomes more apparent when she loses a few limbs in the battle with the time travelers and becomes a cyborg.  And from there we get the current ongoing storyline, as Kim tries to learn more about the fantastic machine city that her late father created.

The Cast: One Very Odd Girl In A Very Odd Land

Kimiko “Kim” Ross is the heroine protagonist, a Singularitarian and science aficionado whose father, Kaito Kusanagi, was an eminent roboticist.  She’s also quite socially awkward and is more at home with robots than human beings.  Her faith in science is as much a strength as it is a coping mechanism for her interaction with others, which the comic does its best to explore.  She also has friends like the insufferably smug Ron, his weary but more amiable sister Yvonne, the nerdy siblings Dmitri and Alina, and a little fellow called Tiny Carl Jung (not entirely sure how that last one came about, but it’s a webcomic and who are we to question its logic?).

There is also the occasional cameo comic featuring a pair of Victorian gentlemen-astronauts named Rupert and Herbert.  My first thought upon seeing them is that they were a knockoff of the characters Twisp and Catsby from Penny Arcade, who share their most genteel and erudite behavior, but I think they’re just fun breather characters from the main plot.

The Style: Science Fiction Visual Poetry

Generally, Aaron Diaz only posts a new comic once a month, hence there aren’t a lot of comics in the archives from when he started this project in 2005.  On the other hand, this isn’t a matter of authorial laziness or distractions.  The reason we only get one comic a month is because these comics must take a long time to produce if their quality is anything to go by.  The detail is insane, the colors are lively, and the expressions are oh so subtle.  These gargantuan comic pages are works of art unto themselves, showing off all the mad and wonderful things that science fiction and fairy tales can produce.

Final Verdict: Daring And Damn Funny

Dresden Codak is, in retrospect, not as bad or as preachy as I feared as it would be.  It’s more of a discussion about the future and the Singularity than a long and protracted argument for or against it.  And besides the technical aspects, the comic is aesthetically radiant, the main character’s journey is endearing, and the fictional universe varies (in a good way) from being genuinely comical to surprisingly dramatic.  It’s worth a read, if only to dazzle the eyes and spark a few ideas in your Internet-aided brain.

To see what I’m on about, take a look at this early comic from April 2007 and decide for yourself how you like it:

“Rule 110.”  April 7, 2007.  Copyright © 2005-2011 by Aaron Diaz.

Bibliography: Diaz, Aaron.  Dresden Codak.  June 8, 2005 – present.


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