I already went and used this platform last week to write about the coolness of comics, so I won’t take the time to do that here again. I do want to say though that The Humans is another example of a cool comic, a comic that is so unabashedly itself that you’d feel embarrassed for it if you didn’t want to BE it so badly. What I would give to sit in on Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely break down their stories? Perhaps a leg, maybe even a kidney. The two of them are clearly bonkers for releasing a comic that has a premise that makes non-readers say WTF. In fact, I’ve gone ahead and had an imaginary conversation between Keller and Neely, and lame publishers during a pitch meeting. “It’s a comic about a California biker gang in the 70’s, only their primates, and oh ya, humans are an enslaved primal species.” “So it’s like Planet of the Apes then, a satire on the state of man?” “No, no. It’s about a group of primate bikers, and one of them just returned after disappearing during the Vietnam War. He’s sort of screwed up from it. It’s pretty straightforward.” “Ok. Gotcha.” “One more thing, the biker gang is called The Humans and they runs drugs, and also pit humans in mortal combat for extra cash.” “Umm…”
The primate biker gang takes the action on the road this issue to join in on some human brawls sponsored by The Humans’ boss Abe Simian, head of Flex Trucking. Once they arrive, Neely and Marshall introduce to a who’s who of the regional bike gangs in a two page spread featuring the likes of the desert-residing Satan’s Minions and Las Vegas’s Los Muertos, Neely giving each crew a distinct look that’s paired with Bobby’s insightful, and humorous, run-down of each group.
While Bobby talks to Abe about increasing The Humans’ cut of the drug-running profits, we’re also introduced to the human-fighting scene. The pairing of the first brawl and conversation play well off each other, showing not only the normalcy of the violence, but also highlighting the rage Bobby feels that seems to foreshadow bleak things for Abe in the comic’s future. Things hit its climax when Bobby and Abe make a deal involving their best fighters, Abe readily putting forward the colossal Bubba. While Bobby doesn’t have a contender on par with Bubba, he’s got a Hail Mary, and with Johnny’s insight into killer urges, they go into the fight with the smallest of chances, the ensuing carnage unsettling and quickly over.
During this fight, it’s once again highlighted just how vital Kristina Collantes’ color work is to setting to the tone for this book. While most scenes use soft purples and oranges for their backgrounds, the climactic fight takes the palette to an uncharted region where rage red pervades half the panels, contrasted with a piss yellow. It makes the fight all the more difficult to take in, and does a great job of conveying the mindlessness of the ensuing action. Along with Neely’s frenetic page layout, and fearless choreography, it’s a scene that’s worth going on any madman’s wall.
Even though the comic’s main drive seems to be to tell the most insane story possible, there’s some heavy stuff lurking beneath. It’ll be interesting to see how much weight Johnny’s past takes on as the comic progresses once it returns in May, and how that might impact the comic’s tone in the future. Neely and Marshall have a rich world on their hands, and wherever they decide to take The Humans, I’ll follow, trailing behind on my twelve-speed road bike.
Writer: Keenan Marshall Keller Artist: Tom Neely Colorist: Krisitina Collantes Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital