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Review: Non-Humans #1 & #2

Coming Late to the Party–but glad to have found it.

These are good. These are amazingly, jaw-droppingly, wonderfully good, to the point where I want to say I love them completely. There is, however, one flaw, one that bothers me enough that this review is going to be about 97% raving about the wonderfulness of the work and 3% ranting.

Ready?

The basic premise is that in 2015, the Mars probe came back with a virus capable of giving life to inanimate objects: Not just any objects, mind–your toaster is unlikely to come back to life–but those regarded with strong feeling and imagination. In Non-Human’s “now,” the internet, movies, and all other forms of imagination-cultivation have been stopped and children are required to take drugs to keep them from dreaming too much and bringing their toys to life. This new life can be benign, but it can also be terrible: Dreams are sometimes nightmares, and the non-humans seem to have a very basic personality set depending on who woke them and how. Whatever they want or believe has a purity and intensity humans never have, and this makes even the nicest of them insane by human standards.

Detective Aimes, old enough to remember a time before the arrival and young enough to have been terrorized by its beginning, is now hunting the ventriloquist’s dummy who killed his partner. He’s just been assigned a new partner, Eden, who is beautiful, new to the detective force, and a specialist in non-human psychology. He’s not happy with the situation.

Aimes is a good variant on the noir-cop. He’s just lost his partner, he’s got a failed marriage, a borderline-delinquent son, and a troubled past. He also has the usual collection of hidden depths: He’d like to be able to reach his son. He desperately wants to protect a city that cannot be made safe. He might actually have some respect for the station’s non-human medic–and the last thing he wants is to respect a non-human. He has a lot of reasons not to.

So, hard-bitten cop, a murderer on the loose, an emerging mystery, and a dangerous world. Oh, and gorgeous art. It’s a winning scenario, overall.

Now the rant part of this: Eden is a terrible mix of unmatched clichés. She’s fully-qualified to be in the force, but she’s to be treated with care because her dad “donated millions to the city.” She’s an expert in non-human psychology, but has evidently never met a hostile non-human (an impossibility, even for the rich, in the world as shown). Aimes’ early conversation with her includes gems like “Did daddy really want a boy instead?” and “Let me guess, you’re the kind of girl that thinks of her appearance as a handicap.” To which she replies “It’s a non-issue.” This may be true, as she doesn’t appear to have noticed quite how low her neckline is. On the other hand, her hair didn’t get that way on its own, and, most importantly, why are they even having this conversation? Can we please have a male-female partnership that doesn’t start with “But you’re a girl”? Aimes spends most of the time being incredibly rude to her, save for the couple of times he exhibits a kind of rough chivalry–chivalry, but not the kind of respect one gives a partner, yet by the end of Non Humans #2, she’s offering comfort sex, after a very annoying scene where she collapses, and he carries her back to his apartment. Bear in mind that she’s just been thrown off a balcony and into a ravine; any sane and sensible person would carry his partner to the medic. Sadly, she’s simply a female, so Aimes assumes she’s simply fainted, and, as subsequent events bear this out, I conclude Brunswick concurs. I know noir requires an initially combative relationship that eventually leads to sex (or to a murder attempt, or both), but the good authors generally manage to include a sense of equally strong will in the two mismatched partners–and judging by the rest of the book, Brunswick is a good author, so I don’t know what happened with Eden. It’s very frustrating.

If Eden turns out to be a non-human herself that will help explain why she is always and only what Aimes needs: Someone to fight, protect, or sleep with by turns. I will probably then complain that all the women in the book are not merely objectified but also objects (It kind of depends on how it’s handled), but it would explain the personality defects. This, by the way, constitutes guessing, not spoiler territory.

The other primary female character is, as you may have gathered, definitely non-humans. Spice, who is Todd, Aime’s son’s, girlfriend, is a Victoria’s Secret model come to life and has a kind of innocent sexuality that is also kind of creepy: She’s pressing Todd to start a non-human family, and family of any kind is too much to ask of a boy of fourteen. That, plus the fact that all the non-humans are crazed by human standards, even Medic, who seems a kindly and almost certainly capable, soul, makes her dangerous, even though she does seem to genuinely care for Todd. However, thanks to the non-human origin, belief-set, and psychology, this is one time where the “innocent siren” actually does work–and works well.

And speaking of the non-human psychology: This, ladies and gentleman, is how to make an over-the-top villain work: Form them out of nightmare and send them out to act. Of course the ventriloquist’s dummy is grandiloquent and over-the-top. How could he not be? He’s his master’s insecurities, wishes, and fears all rolled into one and set loose. The same is true for the stagey killer statue Eden and Aimes encounter later. She really has no choice: She’s ego incarnate. Of course she’s going to go for glorious overkill. The same is true of another vengeful figure who shows up right at the end–and what an entrance he makes!

I can’t begin to describe how much I like the art. Each page is worth multiple readings on that ground alone. The ink is detailed enough for a black-and-white work and the color carries a whole new layer of meaning, intense and deep. It starts with the hectic, overly-brilliant sunset of the first issue and carries through to the gritty darkness of the final alley-way shot at the end of issue 2. I’ve included the raft of preview images from Image below, so you can get an idea of just how beautiful it is.

Non-Humans #3 is now scheduled for May 15, and you can better believe I’m looking forward to it!

Who’s Who & Links of Interest:
Story by:Glen Brunswick
Art By:Whilce Portacio

Non Humans Blog

Non Humans #1 Price: $2.99 Diamond ID: AUG120465 On Sale: October 03, 2012

Non Humans #2 Price: $2.99 Diamond ID: SEP120514 On Sale: January 09, 2013

Images from Non Humans #1. Click on any image to see a larger view.

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Images from Non Humans #2. Click on any image to see a larger view.

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nonhumans02_p3

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