One look at the cover will tell you a lot about what to expect from of Non-Humans #1, whether you realise it at the time or not. It’s a sci-fi miniseries that presents an unnerving future where humanity has come to cohabit the earth with a species of sentient toys and mannequins. Though this sounds like it could be a rather silly premise it actually offers up a dark and uncompromising detective drama ry that’s rich with intriguing ideas.
The story is centred around the world-weary detective Oliver Aimes and he’s not the most likeable of leading characters. His wife (rightly) divorced him, he treats non-humans like trash and he’s barely got any time for his troubled son Todd. It’s a smart move on writer Glen Brunswick’s part to make his protagonist this flawed because it allows for some potentially powerful character progression to take place over the few chapters.
The issue opens at a fast pace a long time after the non-humans have arrived on Earth. Without using any large exposition dumps or an intro page, Brunswick has trusted readers to to pick up the pieces of history that are woven into the story as it progresses and it works well. The gradual revelation of how everything came to be so messed up and how the non-humans came to exist adds to the tension which haunts virtually every page of this issue and ensures that the exploration of the story’s concepts does not ever interrupt the regular plot beats.
As a result Non-Humans #1 is a rewarding read that’s densely packed with information and plot development. There’s still room for a little bit of humor to break up the bleakness of Brunswick’s world - there’s something naturally amusing about the idea of a teddy-bear dealing drugs or a Victoria’s Secret mannequin giving birth to a gun-toting action figure - but you shouldn’t expect to see much sweetness and light in this comic.
The style of artwork that Whilce Portacio brings to his comics is not normally a favorite of mine but in the case of Non-Humans I think he is an excellent choice of artist. His rough lines create a gritty and claustrophobic atmosphere which is very well suited to the setting and enhances the tone of Brunswick’s story.
Non-Humans #1 is a very strong opening issue that covers a lot of bases without feeling overstretched - a testament to Brunswick and Portacio’s ability to pace a story. The varied cast of characters are bound together by relationships which show a lot of promise for enabling drama to unfold in the coming issues, yet it’s also clear that we can expect to see a lot of action in this miniseries. I also was impressed by the imaginative setting, which allows for a fresh take on the concept of artificial life being integrated into human society and Brunswick’s script skilfully blends it with the familiar yet still compelling misfit detective genre. Personally I can’t wait to read the next issue and I hope you can find yourself a copy of Non-Humans #1 before it inevitably sells out at your local store.
Writer: Glen Brunswick
Artist: Whilce Portacio
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 10/3/12