I should hate The Humans. Its characters are crass, horrible, and hedonistic, but damn I feel infinitely cooler after reading this comic. Like last issue, writer Keenan Marshall Keller, artist Tom Neely and colorist Kristina Collantes deliver a 70’s tale about primate (that’s not a derogatory term, these folks are all manner of ape, chimp and orangutan) that’s bikers that’s drenched in beer, sweat, and spit. Although last issue didn’t give us much in the way of an emotional hook, our intro to the war vet Johnny this issue reveals what will probably turn out to be this first arc’s major conflict as he deals with PTSD and reintegrating himself with The Humans. What’s fascinating about The Humans is how non-sentimental Keller is in his depiction of these bikers. The first scene opens with Johnny threatening to cut off the lips of a fellow bus passenger that hopes to convert him, leaving us with an impression of a violent, angry being who can’t control his temper. Johnny continues to come off like a hot-tempered guy as he encounters the local police who thought he was dead. When he does return to The Humans’ compound though, suddenly his personality relaxes when he reunites with his crew, almost all traces of the angrier being earlier disappearing. This movement helps to establish why the outside world views The Humans as a menace while also showing how their familial bond allows them to be vulnerable.
Throughout the issue we learn that in his absence Johnny has taken on the reputation as a war hero in Bakersfield, CA, his hometown. Missing in action in Vietnam, we get glimpses to the type of psychological torture he underwent both in training and in the field, Neely and Collantes delivering one of the best two-page spreads I’ve seen a while that summarizes Johnny’s transformation during training. In this two page spread we see Johnny lose his identity as he’s reduced to a machine meant only for killing. Delivered in triangular sections of red and yellow, the page feels nauseating and violent. If not for a later, drug-fueled two page spread that’s indescribable this would take the cake for best scene.
Much of The Humans’ unique style comes from its lettering, drastically changing throughout from word balloons to scratchy red texts when Johnny loses his temper to great use of onomatopoeic melodies in the later party scenes. Start to end, The Humans’ roars with energy, and its unapologetic tone makes it easy to want to come back for more. Plus, I need to figure out just what the hell Skins are.
Writer: Keenan Marshall Keller Artist: Tom Neely Colorist: Kristina Collantes Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/3/14 Format: Print/Digital