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Non-Humans #1 — Becoming Obsolete

Abhay Khosla

NON-HUMANS #1 by Glen Brunswick, Whilce Portacio, Rus Wooten, and Brian Valez, based upon an idea by Noah Dorsey, published by Image Comics in October 2012:

 I just want to talk about the opening narration.  Listen to this:

 ”Runaway American dream.  Suicide machines.  Sprung from cages out on Highway 9.  Crome [sic] wheeled, fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line. [END OF PAGE 1]

That’s an old song from my childhood– singer– name of Bruce– was my mother’s favorite.  He was talkin’ about the road.  But he could as easily have been talkin’ about Non-Humans.  They expect us to just live with the madness.  The road exposes everyone for what they really are– you just gotta look for the underlying truth.  It’s a tell– window to their character.  Like you know the douchebag that’s gonna run from an accident… from the dude who won’t.  Worked the 405 for a spell before I got my first promotion  [End of Page 2]

 Or the N.H. that’s gonna lie on a routine stop.  Not because it has to– but because it’s simply in the lying piece of crap’s nature.  Victim twenty-two was my partner on the job.  Even dead, you can tell he was the kind of guy who’d take a bullet for you.  Which brings me ’round to my tell.  Can you see it?  I’m past the point of caring if you keep it to yourself or not.  I’ve failed everyone that’s ever been close to me.  [End of page 3]“

What?  What the hell is going on, you guys?  I just find this entire speech mystifying.  I’ve read it over and over.

 Born to Run reminds him of Non-Humans (whatever those are) but also the road, which reminds him of a job he had working on the 405 (which is a freeway in Los Angeles), which reminds him of looking for “tells,” which reminds him of his dead partner (who was … victim 22… okay) which reminds him of a dead dog with its brains split open which reminds of him when he really became Rorshach instead of pretending to be Rorschach which reminds him of—

-wait, no. I had it and then I lost it…

Like how I perceived Snapshot a certain way after Scarlet, I was struck by this comic in the context of the other first issues I’ve read recently, one after another of which have been so confusing, so seemingly hostile to just the basic act of explaining shit to a reader, helping them out with the basic concepts of the story at hand. I have been confused and I have been confused and I have been confused.  Non-Humans #1 starts with three solid pages of confusion (two whole minutes underwater!).  Why?  Why would that be a good idea to anyone?

The comic opens with an essay by Brunswick about how he and Portacio worked on this comic for an entire year before it was produced.  This wasn’t the product of haste or sloth. This was by design. This sounds like this because at some point, the people who made Non-Humans, the people who read it for them and gave them notes, the people at Image Comics who saw the pitch and signed it to their line, to all of them, this is just what comics sound like now.  For a non-negligible  crowd of people, this is how a comic should open, with three pages of … whatever is happening here (?).

And I have to acknowledge—I’m not reading Scott Snyder or Geoff Johns, Marvel Now! nor Walking Dead.  I am divorced from what is hip and what is happening.  I am old and I am stubborn and I am outside their intended audience and I am aesthetically conservative and maybe/probably I have become the Voice of Do It like It was Done Back When.  So there is a possibility—a not small possibility, even– that they are right, and that this, this stretch of what is to me pure nonsense, is the Sound of Comics Now, or at least a logical attempt at that Sound.

Once you’ve seen enough comics, a comic from the 60’s doesn’t look like a comic from the 70’s; you can spot a comic from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s from a distance, with a hand over your eye.  And so, now we’re, what, 4 years into this decade (you count the 0, right?), which mean that styles are due to change again. Or HAVE changed again, while I wasn’t paying attention.  And each time these changes happen, there are the people left behind.  The sad comment-screamers ten years ago whining incessantly about decompression; the 80’s fans who flooded out in the 90’s; 70′s fans whining about the deconstruction of the 80′s (“Frank Miller made Catwoman a whore!  Miracleman showed a baby being born!“); Silver Age fans angry about the death of Gwen Stacy; every time there are those, Cutty say he can’t hang.

Do you expect the Sound of Comics to change again?  History tells you that you should.  But how do you know when it’s happening?  Or has happened already when you weren’t paying attention?  What are you supposed to look for? Do you care about being left behind?  Should you?  Or am I just being unnecessarily jumpy and scared of an obsolescence that again, history guarantees for us all? Maybe everybodys out on the run tonight, but there’s no place left to hide, and together we’ll live with the sadness. I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul but till then tramps like us, baby, we were born to run…? Also this gun’s for hire, even if we’re just dancing in the dark. Jack and Diane are two American kids doing the best they can.

5 Responses to “ Non-Humans #1 — Becoming Obsolete ”

  1. “local favorites”

  2. “Maybe it’s the women you date.”

    “Hey- MAYBE I’VE BEEN HURT!!!!!”

  3. Days later, I still come back to this piece so I can read that opening excerpt. It’s spellbinding in its awfulness.

  4. Come on, Abhay… Is anything Whilce Portacio involved in really likely to be “The Sound of Comics Now?”

    (And PS: Really digging this series of mini-essays — regretfully, the comments activity is not as hoppin’ as their quality would seem to require. Maybe many readers, like me, are digging on it but don’t have much more to add than to scratch their chins and nod their heads at yer pontificatin’ wisdom.)

  5. @Steve D: I think you’re right. These essays are so spot on, what can I add? [especially since you invoked the fact that Portacio is involved with this, which negates its "now-ness" for me, as well; though I will say - Glen Brunswick chose to work with Whilce Portacio FOR A YEAR to bring this out.]

    I will just add that these mini-essays from Abhay are so damn good and feel so effortless in the way they read. I am curious if these are as off-the-cuff as they sound in my head or if, as I suspect, Abhay is working hard to make them feel effortless.

    -chris

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