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First impressions have never hurt my comic book experience before, but it came close with this issue. Here’s the title I have been anticipating the most this October, which is saying a lot since there are titles like Bedlam and Evil Ernie haunting the shelves and peaking my interest. I expected a “guilty pleasure series:” a series I wouldn’t have to think about. I could just watch killer dolls massacre people and maybe suffer through a lot of unnecessary cussing.
Instead, I got an analogy for racial discrimination and a bunch of characters ranging from an annoying protagonist to a drug dealing teddy bear. Instead of a story like Chucky with murderous kewpie dolls running around like I was expecting, this turns out to be a title that I would not classify under the “horror” genre. This is science-fiction and drama. This is a world where Non-Humans (or N.H.) are members of society, fighting for their neglected rights, with references to Jackie Robinson and Dr. King mixed in with an I, Robot feel. And in the place of Will Smith as the paranoid detective, we have Detective Aimes, a divorcee with an attitude towards non-humans and humans alike.
You get a lot for your money with Non-Humans. There is a ton of text, and while the opening narration from Aimes was insufferable and fragmented in places, most of the dialogue helped further along an ever-growing story with a long string is correlating events and characters.
The story of Non-Humans is great for people interested in a science-fiction drama and not horror. Don’t go in with the same expectations as I did or, at the very least, you’ll have to gather your bearings and read this issue again. Life with Non-Humans is in full-swing and how life got that way exactly and the pills kids have to take to prevent the disease from spreading all hint at a deeper science-fiction laced mystery that I’m curious to find out more about. The racial analogy also makes this comic much deeper than I expected and amid the teddy bears and mannequins that is quite unique and an achievement this comic should boast about.
What is reassuring about this issue is there are a ton of characters, and while a lot of them seem cliché and annoy me, there is bound to be one character you’ll like. Unfortunately, one of those annoying characters for me was the protagonist, Detective Aimes. Aimes character is not likeable, and that was one of a few reasons why I did not love this title. When I said he was the equivalent of Will Smith’s character in I, Robot, he does fill the same roll in the story and even has the similar wise-cracking personality. He is also rude to everyone. Will Smith made this work because he had a charisma about him and funny wise-cracking. Aimes never made me laugh once. Being our main character, he also had a lot of narration that I got into even less than his crude dialogue. But I can see him developing into a more likable character with the help of Aimes family.
The most interesting aspect about Aimes is his family. He is a divorcee with the classically clichéd angry ex and his estranged son Todd. Todd is who interests me, because his character spins off into his own side-story which introduces a relationship between a human and non-human, which as you can image is a very big no-no in society. This side-story is what interested me the most, especially when they have a child – which in Non-Humans terms is very different than what you’re thinking. The other characters involved, Todd’s girlfriend, a Victoria secret mannequin named Spice (priceless) and a creepy girl named Peg.
The rest of the characters on Aimes squad are people whose names I didn’t even bother to learn. There’s the sergeant, Aimes new partner who he berates for being a woman (just keeping pouring on that charm Aimes…). The only character in the law enforcement biz that I remembered by name other than Aimes was Medic, who inspired the Jackie Robinson reference mentioned in the comic, because he is the first non-human to get a gold shield. Another character that it would feel inhuman not to mention is Buddy the Bear, a teddy bear who is Aimes informant and a drug dealer. What’s not to love about that?
Whilce Portacio takes advantage of very distinct and creative non-humans. Spice is pretty with glowing blue eyes that actually work unlike another N.H. I could mention… Buddy the bear looks like he really has fur, and Peg’s design is nice and creepy… I think I’m really going to like Peg. But the humans and background are where Portacio struggles. Not much ever goes on in the background, which I wouldn’t complain about if I didn’t have to focus on sometimes over-sketched faces of humans. Their expressions sometimes don’t look like they belong with the expression Portacio is trying to portray. I’ve never been a fan of Portacio’s style unless he’s drawing carnage-filled scenes, but carnage takes a back-seat in this complex story driven comic, and the few times Portacio does draw violence it looks lackluster with the people seen from afar making the panel less impactful.
Non-Humans #1 sets up a world very different from the one I got because of the description this book had. I wish I had more of an idea about what I was getting into before reading this book, so hopefully now that you’re more informed you can enjoy it right from the start. The artwork is still scratchy and Aimes is an unlikable character who I’m sure is bound to become more “sympathetic” as the story goes on, but all I can keep thinking about is his son and the Victoria Secret mannequin… and Buddy the drug dealing bear. But all crazy and clever non-human designs aside, this story is deep. Granted, you can see the equivalent analogy of black discrimination in X-Men, but if that isn’t cutting it for you, or you just need to see that drug-inducing teddy bear, check out the first issue of Non-Humans.