This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on August 5, 2015.
The Humans is a comic that presents a specific place in time and a specific set of mind. Central California, early 1970s, biker gangs roam towns like Bakersfield fucking, fighting, and rocking their way to imagined glory backed up by walls of booze, long lines of cokes, and more assorted drugs than most college seniors have heard of much less tried. So how should one properly discuss the The Humans? Probably not sober.
That’s why I’m five bourbons reading The Humans #7 for the third time. It’s the kind of comic that makes you want to involve yourself, even if it’s from the same sadsack position as Hunter S. Thompson a few bottles in behind his keyboard after a thorough ass whooping. So what do I think about this The Humans #7?
This comic fucks.
The ethos of The Humans has always centered around two aspects of the human experience, probably the two most central aspects of the human experience, fucking and fighting. Both acts driven by raw passion, rage and lust forming the ultimate ends of a spectrum between creation and destruction. They’re actions which can be interpreted a thousand different ways, presenting the selfish along with the selfless, the banal along with the beautiful.
That balance has never been more clear than in the pages of The Humans #7. In mirroring stories brothers Bobby and Johnny are engaged in opposite and equal acts. Bobby fighting for his life against an ambush. Johnny fucking himself back to the nearest normal he can find. Their stories move together from flirtation to foreplay to climax. Each step of the way showing something pure, unadulterated and entirely human, all in the form of ape bikers roaming SoCal.
The first half of The Humans #7 is all titillation. It reads a lot like previous issues, and sets readers up to think this is just another great party like every one that has come before. Dense panel layouts allow for a lot to happen, setting up everything that’s going to come next. It moves between being tense, funny, and hot, but it never comes close to the ecstasy and agony that compose the back half of the issue. This is excellent storytelling, but that’s a lot like calling something excellent flirting. Sure it’s fun, but it’s not fucking.
Then the shift occurs. Johnny’s girl takes off her shirt. The Skabbs launch their cowardly attack. These two narratives merge into one as panels move back-and-forth between the two scenes with each transition. Johnny and his girl are lit up in velvet reds, like the blood coursing so hot in their bodies. It’s pure passion on display. In Kirby’s bar, red only appears to mark fire, blood and viscera against the cold blue of the scene. It’s madness highlighted by pops of explosions of awful pain. The two continue to escalate, Johnny fucking and Bobby taking cover, the action mounting until they merge into one.
This is where The Humans #7 reaches its climax. In two red hot spreads lit up in bold, fiery light fucking takes centerstage to a landslide of carnages in the panels that surround it. There is barely time for words, it’s all action here. Even as Humans and Skabbs die, it’s clear that none of them have ever believed they were more alive. The fire that consumes Kirby’s lights up Johnny’s body.
And this is it. This is the point. It’s the connection between the animal apes and civilized humans, why these two roles are so easily and amusingly swapped in these pages. Because the differences are far more exaggerated than any of us would like to believe. Because the sex is hot and the violence is exhilarating. It’s not the lizard brain compelling us to read more and revel in these pages. It’s the ape brain we always knew we had. This is sexy. This is exciting. This is dramatic, and it’s all too much damn fun.
It’s also not here for our amusement, because the thing about fighting and fucking is they have consequences. Whether you’re cumming or killing, there is a next moment. There’s a thing that follows the thing you wanted, and it’ll never feel as good or rewarding as what came just one second before. So these two stories collide after having ridden side-by-side all issue.
Fighting and fucking are fun, but there is an aftermath and it’s often painful. Those things we desire often lead us down dark roads. All of the emotions that get us high eventually leave us low. There’s a reaction to every big, bold action. And even though it seems obvious in retrospect, we’re too fucking stupid to notice it until after it’s done.
Yeah, The Humans is about fighting and fucking, but that’s only because it’s about living. These are the things we do because we’re alive. And sometimes they lead us to the best experiences we could have ever imagined, but sometimes they lead us to the worst. There are costs to living and they can’t be ignored. We do these things because we’re alive, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be okay in the end. We aren’t gods after all.
That’s what The Humans is about. It’s here to remind us that we’re only human.
Humans for life. Humans til deth.