It’s amazing how a second reading can change your opinion on a text. I recall reading Tom Sawyer in high school, and intensely despising it before coming back years later and realizing how genius and hilarious it was. Similarly, and Twain might spin in his white suit for this, the first time around The Humans read like nothing more than an escapist fantasy of misplaced nostalgia for a time and place that were not all that great, and to boot it just felt like sexist drivel thanks to one page early on. Therefore when I got around to reading it a second time in preparation for this review, I was surprised by how much my opinion had changed. I still thought of it as lewd and intensely vulgar however I recognized that this issue isn’t even the beginning of the story of the Humans (confirmed in the issue’s stellar backmatter by creators, Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely), serving only as the prologue before shit goes haywire for them, and the fantasy of their unrestricted life starts to fall apart.
The Humans stars a biker gang of primates who run drugs out of Bakersfield, CA, in the early 70’s and get up to drugs, sex, and fights when not biking around the state. Led by Bobby, the Humans so far are an amoral bunch who’s only redeeming quality seems to be an intense loyalty to one another, and an ability to party continuously even after a fight with local bike rivals, the Skabbs. This issue looks at the funeral and extended festivities as the Humans say goodbye to Mojo, a character we never meet while alive.
Although we don’t get a sense of each character in this issue, Keller and Neely do a great job of giving The Humans a distinctly adult tone, and creating a world with a well-defined perspective. That’s to say that the book oozes with the type of badassery that’s difficult to manufacture from Keller’s sparse use of dialogue to Neely’s ability to illustrate brutal violence in a stylish, but realistic fashion.
Visually, Kristina Collantes does superb work giving this comic a palette reminiscent of 70’s word movies through its use of muted browns and oranges, adding great bursts of color to panels that ratchet up the insanity such as the great double-page that illustrates the range of maniacal activities the Humans engage in.
I go back and forth on whether to write about bonus content when assessing an issue, but just wanted to mention how much I dig things like Keller and Neely curating a soundtrack for this comic that they make available on Soundcloud. While we only get a brief intro to the world of The Humans, I get the sense that Keller and Neely are gonna ratchet the action up to dizzy heights while delivering a satire of 70’s West Coast culture.
Writer: Keenan Marshall Keller Artist: Tom Neely Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 11/5/14 Format: Print/Digital