There’s something about violent personal vengeance that makes sense to me despite my inclination towards pacifism. The idea to strike back at someone who has wronged you sounds much more satisfying and fair than waiting for a judicial process to sort itself out. After reading this issue of The Humans though, I’m terrified at the extents grief can push someone to as I viewed Johnny and the Humans take on the Skabbs in his first round of retaliation for the death of his brother Bobby. With a steady escalation towards greater mayhem and bubbling insanity, Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller show readers what can happen when a person with nothing left to lose decides to get back at everyone that’s screwed with him. Shut up in the Human compound’s barn following the death of Bobby, Johnny works on his bike while Peggy begs him to rise out of his grief. The Bakersville cops make a visit to the compound to warn Johnny and the Humans about the repercussions that would result if they try to get revenge on the Skabbs. Johnny, undeterred by Peggy’s pleas, takes the Humans to the Skabbs’ hangout determined to kill whichever one of them killed Bobby. From there, it’s blood, ‘fucks,’ and a bike used in a particularly creative way.
Since Johnny’s return, it’s been apparent that he remains traumatized by his time in Vietnam. Last issue’s reunion with Peggy gave us a glimmer of Johnny moving beyond that trauma only for his grief to plunge him right back into it this issue. I loved the decision to surround Johnny with jungle vegetation in his opening conversation with Peggy as he realizes that despite physically leaving Vietnam, he has brought back the horrors inflicted on himself back to his life in Bakersville. Artist Tom Neely does a great job during this conversation of showing how wrecked Johnny has become in such a short amount of time. The image of a ghostly Johnny really dug into me, and made me feel an immense amount of pity towards Johnny who no longer sees an alternative than to surrender to the violence in himself. The opening scene makes Johnny’s later action understandable even as he indiscriminately goes primal on each Skabb he encounters.
In regards to the action this issue, Neely and Marshall work together to ensure the momentum never staggers once the opening strike is made. Once a grenade entered the fray, I thought it would all cool off from there, but Neely and Marshall generate page after page of well-orchestrated mayhem that surpasses the comic’s 70’s exploitation inspirations. It’s impressive how willing the team is to have its protagonist behave in a manner that could hardly be considered heroic, and Johnny’s last kill left me uncertain whether I wanted him to continue succeeding in his quest to kill all those responsible for Bobby’s death. It’s a level of moral uncertainty that further invests me in the characters’ actions, and I’m interested in seeing whether Marshall and Neely want to provide any sort of redemptive arc for Johnny. Goddess, I hope not.
Marshall uses the supporting Humans characters to great effect this issue by individualizing their response to Johnny’s vendetta. While Doc tries to calm down the grieving brother, Karns revels in the opportunity to use his new sharpened sword on both bikes and Skabbs. These differing responses to Johnny’s actions show the reader how exceptional the circumstances are, and lend a greater weight to the violence beyond the gore. It gave me the impression that the Humans may not all unanimously continue supporting Johnny’s actions following the assault on the Skabbs.
The Humans continues to end each issue on pages that make me momentarily envy trade waiters. This comic has no desire for readers to like its characters, only for them to understand the motives behind their actions however heinous they are. Marshall and Neely do whatever it is they want with this comic, and what they want to do is wonderful in its madness.
The Humans #8 Writer: Keenan Marshall Keller Artist: Tom Neely Colorist: Krisitina Collantes & Tom Neely Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 10/7/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital