Ascension is immortality: the end of death, disease, pain, and suffering. All you have to do is accept the terms of service.
Ascension is a dystopian science fiction thriller about Big Tech overreach, invasion of privacy, and manipulation set in a not-so-distant future. The quest for immortality is finalized with Ascension. A look into what it would be like to live in a metaverse-like society where enhanced and improved appearances are what matters the most and Artificial Intelligence is replacing the human body.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Ascension is written and created by John Schuler and illustrated by Michael Yakutis. John’s stories are inspired by a love of the Golden Age of Science Fiction and a desire to see more aspirational heroes in pop culture.
Michael Yakutis has been a sequential artist for over a decade. He has been fortunate to work with some of his favorite writers, filmmakers, agencies, and publishers such as Stan Lee, Image Comics, Black Box Comics, Bret Easton Ellis, William Shatner, Shatner Singularity, Simon and Schuster, and James Merendino just to name a few. He is currently working on his debut graphic novel, Buying Time, which he is both writing and illustrating.
Ascension is a sci-fi thriller softcover 64-page color graphic novel, and the book has a printed spine. The main story is told on 49 pages and divided into 2 parts with a 2-page intro. The bonus story is a 10-page sci-fi action/adventure inspired by Babylon 5, Stargate, and Star Trek and will be part of the upcoming Alliance series. Further, there are 2 pages with concept art, and a Thank you page. The interior section of the cover at the front has the title/presentation page and at the back, there is an ad for book 2. The book was published in 2021 by Foundation Comics.
The GAFDA corporation has perfected Ascension, the ability to transfer a person’s consciousness into an artificial body. They carried out this procedure on a human test subject, a terminally ill child, but suffered massive PR backlash. Millions of people worldwide protested and every government on Earth outlawed the practice. Now, thirteen years later, GAFDA has decided to resume human experimentation regardless of the social or legal obstacles. Progress, like information, is power and GAFDA knows this very well.
We learn that Tam Stilman accompanied by her millennial mother must come to grips with social prejudice and her own doubts regarding the procedure. Mr. Pierote, the CEO of the company is very persuasive and she eventually allows a tech company to illegally transfer her comatose husband’s mind into an artificial body. In Tam’s mind, she is doing something good that got her husband back. The company touts immortality as a free service, but Tam is about to realize in book 2 that if the product’s free, you are the product.
NEW DAWN STATION
New Dawn Station is the first of the “Captain Sullivan stories” set years after the conclusion of Ascension. The arc of these stories and the events of Ascension will meet at a singular point in the distant future. So two timelines, one storyline.
The crew of a hyperspace tug is transporting modular hull sections from an alien planet to Earth’s shipbuilding facilities. Captain Sullivan, upon receiving his cargo, is given a mysterious alien device by an alien and ordered to sneak it to Earth, or his family will be murdered.
The main story strikingly reflects a not-so-distant future that some are trying to avoid. The introduction to the story is very telling of what we will read further. It starts with a sick girl getting better through science and as a grown-up being a victim for existing. It gives you an idea already that she is somehow a robot and that’s why she is being condemned by society. The story is intriguing in the beginning. We are dealing with a Big Tech with significant power.
By the time we get to Mindi, I wish her section could have been shorter, she is kind of annoying. But when she mentioned how people used to believe that photographs could steal a person’s soul, I found that very interesting when thinking about the idea of downloading someone’s mind into a machine.
With this specific process, you completely lose the connection to the human soul of the person because it must die for the transfer to take place. Science doesn’t really care about the human soul since it is not tangible and scientifically doesn’t exist. It’s very different from resurrection from the dead like the Second Chance series.
A resurrected person has a soul it just may not be the same soul. But I also understand that this soul business is mostly linked to religion and science doesn’t really care for it. It’s very clear that something fishy is going on with Tam’s husband and the clear invasion of her privacy is still to be exposed in upcoming stories. It’s not clear to me whether she realized the meaning of her husband being immortal. Since this practice is illegal what would happen if the company shuts down and she doesn’t get the same treatment?
The bonus story is a nice gift for an old star trek fan. It offers an interesting look into what could be the ultimate hero journey for Captain Sullivan or maybe the journey to his downfall. What does it mean to have courage and become heroic? What will he do to keep his family safe?
THE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
What got me interested in this campaign is the trailer for the book. The graphic novel was offered in two formats, depending on the tier you choose to back on the Ascension Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign: a digital eBook or a physical copy of the graphic novel along with an 11×17 pinup poster.
I got the digital and the physical copy. The tracking number was not provided however the package containing the physical copy and the folded pinup poster arrived with no issues. It is impressive how fast the book was delivered after the crowdfunding campaign was closed. Prior to that updates on the status of the campaign were timely provided.
Ascension is very much what we need now to continue the discussions on A.I and immortality.
People seem to avoid looking into the dark side of A.I, the same way that was done with the green and digital economy. Very few wanted to openly discuss the potential negatives of the products and services offered, and their negative effect on the lower class. E-waste is a topic that is avoided like the plague but its consequences will be seen sooner or later. One of the ultimate polluters is an entity (the military-industrial complex) nobody wants to acknowledge. Instead, let’s blame the cows and intensify farmers’ struggles. Every new technology has its pros and cons. There needs to be a way for independent oversight and regulation to the benefit of society, not corporations.
We are using A.I. already every day we just don’t acknowledge it as A.I. for some reason. For example, every time we use a website with a welcome bot, or every time we google something. We need to make sure to use A.I. as a tool to help us with work and not let it use and control, us instead which seems challenging seeing how people are addicted to their phones and easily controlled/manipulated.
Paying for immortality doesn’t seem a far fetch idea when you already have Elon Musk’s Neuralink and the U.S. FDA is considering classifying aging as a disease that could speed FDA drug approvals. Drugs and technology are already mingled as we have seen with the mRNA vaccines so it wouldn’t surprise me to have tech companies interested in projects similar to GAFDA and maybe already working on them.
It is a fascinating book with a unique art style that students can read and discuss in class but is also an interesting read during training sessions on the use of new technology, big tech, and human & privacy rights. I wish there was more story to read but knowing that the story will continue in book 2 is cool. I just hope it doesn’t take too long to know how Tam’s story unfolds.
The crowdfunding campaign is still in-demand and since the books are already printed it wouldn’t take long to receive them. Check it out!
My notes are all set. Let me know what you think.
See you on the next page!