Monday, 25 November 2019

In Review - 'Human' from Europe Comics.


Written by Diego Agrimbau.
Art and Colours by Lucas Varela.
Translated by M.B. Valente.
Lettered by Cromatik Ltd.

Full Colour - 134 pages - £7.99 (digital only).

The Story - A spaceship crash lands on what appears to be an alien planet. An android gets out of the ship and makes it's way across the landscape. Due to the accident it's computer is malfunctioning and much of the memory of the mission is missing. This is a dangerous planet full of tribes of ferocious apelike creatures many of whom are bloodthirsty and will attack anything strange and uninvited. 

The android we later find out is called 'Alpha' and is one of a party of droids who are there to work for 'Robert' the lone human in the party. After teaming up with the other androids in the exploration party they find Robert in a suspended animation capsule. They manage, after some hilarious attempts, to resuscitate their master and that is really where all the problems begin.

Will the party survive? What are they really searching for? Will the lone human go mad and create a harem on lady ape creatures?

Things really go off the deep end!

The Review - There is no hiding the fact that the creators have followed the model of Hearts of Darkness or Apocalypse Now in the creation of Human Robert (and done so with relish). He is the lone human on what we soon discover is Earth in the far flung future (500,000 years to be exact). He is the lone man and is surrounded by robots of varying brain size, design, compatibility and ability. He soon descends into the madness that we watched Colonel Walter E. Kurtz encounter. And like Kurtz he takes his murderous madness out on those immediately at his side.

You also soon begin to realise that akin to many other great horror and science fiction films that the true humanity in the cast belongs in those who would not normally be expected to hold those sentiments. So through this twist it is Alpha who becomes the eyes and ears of the reader. This examination of what it means to be truly human/humane gives the reader that much needed connection and so through this the feelings of empathy to this sensitive android a worry that they will be hurt or survive at all.

The action amps up as Robert crowns himself a King, gives himself a throne and starts gladatorial competitions between patched together battle droids and spear carrying ape creatures of the forest. He experiments with technology and augments some of the soldier/worker apes as mindless slaves with cybernetic implants. He then gathers female apes and has them as sex slaves within his cabin in the settlement. King Robert's angry and unsettling madness only gets worse and worse and drives the actions of all those around him to take sides with lethal consequences.

This is some clever writing that upon examination of the art style seems simpler than you later realise. Agrimbau works alongside artist Varela to build a world that is both similar to ours (the ape creatures have easy comparison points to apes we see today for example) and yet is sinisterly weird. Huge structures of Mushrooms tower above the rocks and skeletons and skulls adorn the ground. The world mirrors in many ways the insanity of the human and also the vibrant imagination of the creators. The communication of what is going on within the page is an exceptionally well achieved joining of story and art. This could very nearly be a wordless book and still communicate the story with the impact it requires.

As you can see from the panels and pages that I have posted the art has a gorgeous clean line with some flat colours. I talked about this album on The Awesome Comics Podcast this week and described Varela's art as somewhere between Goran Parlov and Gilbert Hernandez but it also has some added idiosyncratic kinks all of it's own. It screams with consistency and some great design models. It's a shame that this currently isn't available to purchase physically but I may well purchase a French version as it doesn't have huge chunks of dialogue to contend with. I straightaway ordered a book that Varela made with Fantagraphics called The Longest Day of the Future.

This is a book that let's you fall into the trap of knowing what you are getting before pulling the carpet away from you time and time again. The downward descending cycle of crazy just keeps on trucking!

If I had one criticism it would be with the unusually high price for this Europe Comics catalogue book compared to their other releases at £7.99 for the Comixology version and 9.99 Euros on the Europe Comics site. This is a much longer book than many in their catalogue which might explain the higher price. But they are also a company that runs regular sales that you should keep your eye out for. for a copy and sign up for their newsletter.

You can also follow this company on Twitter @EuropeComics and on Instagram @europecomics

Highly recommended.

Here is a little about the creators:

Diego Agrimbau is an Argentinian writer who has been creating comics since 1990. After gaining experience in self-publishing, he became a professional comics scriptwriter in 2003. Today, he is considered as one of the main forces behind the revival of Argentinian comics. He has collaborated with an array of illustrators and written for various genres, including science fiction, erotica, slice of life dramas, and children’s books, winning several awards. In 2019, he collaborated with Lucas Varela on the long-waited post-apocalyptic sci-fi graphic novel L’Humain aka Human (Dargaud and Europe Comics).

Lucas Varela was born in Buenos Aires in 1971. After studying graphic design in college, he gained experienced as an artist and designer for the press before turning his attention to comics fully in 2006. In 2012, he was an author in residence in Angoul√™me, which coincided with his entry into the Franco-Belgian market. In 2015, his graphic novel Le Jour le plus long du futur, a solo project, was published by Delcourt, and in 2017, together with writer Julien Frey, he published Michigan: On the Trail of a War Bride (Dargaud; Europe Comics in English 2018), based on the story of a young French woman who follows an American soldier across the Atlantic following World War II — one of 200,000 such European "war brides." His most recent work is the post-apocalyptic graphic novel L'Humain aka Human (Dargaud and Europe Comics), written by Diego Agrimbau.

Many thanks for reading.

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