Philip K. Dick's literature appears to have suddenly found a fresh new fan-base with comic book and graphic novel readers. It seems no one's been quite this excited about his classic speculative shorts and novels since Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner achieved cult status and reopened his Pandora's Box of hallucinatory introspection. The "Boom!" in interest is partially due to the revival of that aforementioned cinematic jewel's source material, Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, in a serialized graphic form.
His slightly lesser known short story, initially published in 1969, The Electric Ant, gets the Marvel treatment in this five issue miniseries, collected in paperback. The story revolves around Garson Poole, the owner of a technology corporation, who is involved in a flying car crash. Waking up after days in the hospital, and with his perception oddly impaired, Garson finds he is missing an arm and that he isn't quite as human as he had previously supposed. Poole learns that he is an electricant, or electric ant, a precursor to the infamous replicants of Do Androids Dream..., and has merely been playing the role of figurehead for the very company he thought he owned as majority shareholders pull his strings to their own ends. The alarming discovery leads Garson to literally open himself up in an attempt to reprogram his own processing units. Instead, however, he finds a way to alter his very reality by tampering with a spool of tape he locates in his chest cavity. As his semi-organic synapses are gradually remapped by his modifications, corporeal and abstract begin to blend, and reality becomes increasingly more difficult to discern from delusion as Garson's subjective consciousness begins bleeding into the objective consciousness of others around him. But, there is a prerecorded warning programmed into Garson's spool of tape that makes one thing crystal clear: messing with the tape can only lead to something very detrimental to Garson Poole's well-being.
What at first glance seems a conventional yet compelling counter-culture allegory of repressed individuality unlocked via psychotropics quickly begins to change shape, becoming almost cautionary in nature. Electric Ant begs the question, is it worth fighting predestination, breaking from your predetermined mold, if the result achieved is much more sinister than you could have ever imagined? Should we simply comply and acquiesce if it brings a certain measure of comfort, when independence means constant flux and turmoil? In the case of Garson Poole, the cost of self-awareness is steep, and the resultant turbulence may exact a deadly toll as his experiment in mind-expansion spirals into something of a bad trip.
The question of independence-versus-servitude is ultimately answered in a stunningly existential way that only Philip K. Dick could pull together from the fleeting memories of his own fever dreams and acid trips. David Mack capably translates Philip's psychedelic-noir science-fiction vision into an updated and concise, yet moving and true-to-its-source, graphic novella. Pascal Alixe and Christopher Sotomayor's artwork wondrously captures the magnificence and addled paranoia of a head trip gone horribly awry. Ahead of its time and incisive in its probing of the boundaries of reality, Electric Ant is absolutely enthralling, and, though this adaptation's motifs aren't nearly as subtle or refined as those found in Fancher and Peoples' screen treatment for Blade Runner, its scope is profound, its delivery mesmerizing.