Ezra Claytan Daniels is both author and illustrator of the new graphic novel, Upgrade Soul. In it, Hank and Molly decide to undergo an experimental procedure to regain their youth.

Daniels tells how this long-married couple makes such a momentous decision. He shows what kind of people they are, and also how they came to have the money to invest in such a thing. To do so, he uses both present-day images and flashbacks.

As you might imagine, the process doesn’t go quite as planned. The “medical” team might not be quite as qualified as Hank and Molly thought. The process might not be quite as proven. And if it had been, the novel wouldn’t have been so thought-provoking.

Conceptually, Daniels discusses some pretty intense topics. Lots of graphic novels have death as one of their themes. But not often as such a realistic impulse to spurn death and regain youth. Since my husband signed up last week for Medicare, thoughts about aging are very much on my mind. So Upgrade Soul was a good match for am evening’s reading.

Hank, Molly, and their caregivers also confront the question of identity, and what it means to be a person. If personhood includes the ability to both live and die, as well as think and feel, then the experimental results do indeed have a soul. Or do they? Are they just an extension of Hank’s and Molly’s souls? Heavy stuff, actually.

Musician and lyricist Tori Amos puts it this way, “I think you have to know who you are. Get to know the monster that lives in your soul, dive deep into your soul and explore it.”

Daniels conjures brightly washed images, alternately stark and almost shocking. He draws Hank and Molly with empathy and care. They’ve remained in my mind’s eye even after finishing the novel.

My conclusions:

Upgrade Soul is a compelling story, and worth an evening’s time. I appreciate Daniels’ ability to discuss the process of aging and the desire to reverse time. He takes an innovative and intelligent approach to both topics. At the same time, he creates a suspenseful story.


Thanks to NetGalley, Lion Forge, Diamond Book Distributors, and the author for the opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review. Anticipated publication date is September 18, 2018.