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Looking for a graphic novel I read in probably 2016. Don't know when it was published but if I had to guess I would guess mid-2000s to 2010s.

The protagonist is an investigator/detective. I think the job had a special name like "spirit detective" which of course is un-googleable thanks to The Spirit. Their most noteworthy trait is they can clone/replicate themselves, but I don't remember how that works. Maybe at any time? Only if about to die? There may be humanoids and I think the protagonist has a human body plan but I think they're sort of stretched out with a balloonish head. Don't remember if there are clothes. [edit: I want to say the protagonist is a bald male, but I'm wary of possibly mixing the memory of this book up with Dean Motter's Mister X]

The story is moody. Maybe the protagonist hasn't had a job in a while? Or is on the outs with the bosses? There are also questions I think about what it means to replicate yourself. And a finite number of replications either before you die for good or before you lose yourself. Replicas know what number they, or maybe only the original knows what number they're at. There's danger of wiping yourself out... Maybe if you replicate too deeply? There are conversations about whether taking this job is a good idea. Pretty sure the protagonist dies a few times. There is a friend or perhaps love interest. [edit: They may refer to some bureaucratic "dispacter" message sending our protagonist to the job, which is possibly trying to get rid of him for, like any good noir detective, investigating too far.] [editorial after starting to read Kiln People: I think a lot of the moodiness centered around hopelessness of lost memory. Getting clues to the investigation but losing them as you replicate? Touch of Memento)

Scenes I remember: office building/airport/convention center sort of space. Huge, open, roomy, Modern architecture-y. Traveling out to do the investigation, maybe in a dune buggy? And the investigation leads to a cave I think.

The artwork is striking. Sparse. Either all line work or maybe all washes. Monochrome I think, and probably black, but it would not surprise me if it was purples. [edit: writing this out is jogging my memory. "Graphic novel" still feels appropriate to me but I think it had full-page images not panels]

I read it in English but have a feeling it was originally in another language.

Thanks for your help!

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  • Hmm... reminds me a bit of Jamie Madrox during "X-Factor Investigations". Must google and see if he ever worked solo. Apr 3 at 20:35
  • 1
    I don't think this is something Marvel would put out. Just artwork alone it was more "indie". Flatter, more like a relative of Mister X and Asterios Polyp with a splash of Frank Miller. (Will be interested to see how actuate that is if I ever identify the book). Thanks for the suggestion though
    – henry
    Apr 4 at 1:41
  • @henry Take a look at The Surrogates. Only a few plot details seem to match up, but the artwork is indeed striking, sparse and often simply black lines on washed out background. There is one scene where they are driving a car through desert(?) that might match your memory of the dune buggy. I found it by googling "Kiln People" "ripoff" where the first link talked about 2009 movie of the same name starring Bruce Willis
    – SilentAxe
    Apr 7 at 14:33
  • @SilentAxe not it but thanks for looking. That artwork is cool, will have to put it on the list
    – henry
    Apr 7 at 18:01
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Many points of your story make me think of David Brin's 2002 Kiln People. Which is not a graphic novel though. On the other hand, some of Brin's short stories did become graphic novels or basis for same, so, maybe...

  • The protagonist is an investigator/detective. Check. Albert Morris is a private eye.
  • I think the job had a special name like "spirit detective" - partial check. He is a detective, and he has some almost-psi capability that makes him capable of almost perfect "kilning".
  • they can clone/replicate themselves - check. This is kilning.
  • There are also questions I think about what it means to replicate yourself. Check
  • And a finite number of replications either before you die for good or before you lose yourself. Check Unless you're Albert Morris.
  • Pretty sure the protagonist dies a few times. Check. Sort of.
  • There is a friend or perhaps love interest. Check. Clara, she ends up with a kiln clone after the real Albert ascends.
  • Traveling out to do the investigation, maybe in a dune buggy? - check. Morris travels through the desert using, if I remember, a "cabbie".
  • And the investigation leads to a cave - check. Quote:

This place is amazing. I really must switch to realtime, in order to describe what I’m seeing right now. [...] An entire army stands at attention before me, divided by rank and specialty into squads, platoons, companies, and regiments. Casting long shadows in the dim light, row after row of sturdy figures extends into the distance. Neither living nor quite lifeless, silent in the chilly dry air of a deep subterranean cavern that must stretch for kilometers, each soldier abides sealed by a thin layer of gel-wrap to maintain freshness, awaiting an order that may never come—a command to turn on the lights and fire up nearby kilns, rousing a clay legion from its sleep.

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  • Wow very interesting, there must be a connection. Have done some searching for Brin-related works, haven't found it yet
    – henry
    Apr 3 at 15:53
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    Re your edit: "I really must switch to realtime, in order to describe what I’m seeing right now" This first person perspective feels familiar. At this point I'm surprised I'm not finding my book under the name "Kiln People, The Graphic Novel Version"!
    – henry
    Apr 3 at 16:24
  • I seem to remember - except I could swear it was Greg Bear, totally not David Brin - some SF author having had an unauthorized (comic? Graphic?) version of one of their novels, and the whole mess ending in litigation. Maybe something like this happened to Brin too. I've been looking for the graphic novel too, but turning out nothing. I'd be interested in reading it (I already have Kiln People -- as well as most of Brin's production).
    – LSerni
    Apr 3 at 16:32
  • Picked up a copy from my local second hand bookstore. Different tone, different world. Still, must have been a strong influence.
    – henry
    Apr 4 at 1:43
5

On a very different note, and also not (originally) graphic, the description reminded me of Spectrum by Sergey Lukyanenko. There, people can teleport to various other worlds, and the protagonist is a specialist in pulling lost tourists out. One girl managed to distribute herself to multiple worlds at once...

Yet another very different example was from Strugatsky brothers' brilliant series on "NIICHAVO" institute of magic in service of the Soviet public and industry, where among other things, experienced employees could "dupe" themselves into usually short-lived entities capable of keeping up with one task, such as following up on an experiment or sitting at a meeting (many of which were only attended and led by such dupes). That is something I, and many of my acquaintances, really miss in real life ;)

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    Not my book but cool I've never heard of either of these!
    – henry
    Apr 4 at 1:46

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