Current Reviews

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Transhuman #1

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2008
By: Matthew J. Brady

Jonathan Hickman
JM Ringuet
Image Comics
ďDiscoveryĒ

Jonathan Hickman burst onto the comics scene last year with his miniseries The Nightly News, a Fight Club-esque look at the role of the media in American life. He followed it up recently with Pax Romana, another mini-series, this time about time travel and its religious and social effects. Heís definitely got some range, refusing to stick to the same type of story every time, and his comics also make for some fascinating reading, since his sense of design is pretty incredible, making for some very unique comics pages. But how well will he be able to do when collaborating with another creator? We get to find out here, in a mini-series that he is writing, with art from JM Ringuet.

This time around, Hickman is looking at genetic engineering and the creation of super-humans, from a corporate point of view. The book is presented as a sort of ďmockumentaryĒ, with characters speaking directly to the reader and telling the story of two rival scientists who were both trying to bring about the next step in human evolution. To tell the truth, I donít know if this approach works for comics. A ďhostĒ narrates the story, as if he is a TV reporter talking to a camera. Other characters do the same when being interviewed, with the reporterís questions appearing in speech balloons from off-panel. Itís an odd, static use of the comics format, consisting almost entirely of ďtalking headsĒ relaying the story to the reader instead of showing it to us. Itís probably an intentional violation of the ďshow, donít tellĒ rule of storytelling, and I expect Hickman has plans for future subversion of expectations, but until future issues show up, all we have to go on is this installment, and itís surprisingly non-dynamic, especially compared to Hickmanís previous work.

That said, itís an interesting story that heís telling here, with a colorful cast of characters and some interesting conflicts. Two rival scientists are both trying to create superhumans, but they take different approaches, with one focusing on genetic engineering and the other using technological modifications. Joining the fray are some venture capitalists and other scientists (two of whom used to be married, making for some obvious conflict). Really, this issue is mostly setup, introducing us to the conflict and characters and giving us a hint of what is to come. Itís interesting stuff, and there are a few pretty funny bits, especially a set of reports about some animal testing.

JM Ringuetís art is quite a bit different from Hickmanís, but he does a good job of illustrating the script, bringing the characters to life in a gritty, somewhat rough style. He (or possibly she) draws characters with expressively cartoony flair, and some nice, dirty-looking coloring. For such a visually-flat issue, Ringuet makes it enjoyably readable by giving the characters, well, character.

So, while Iím interested to see where the story is going, I donít think itís as good as Hickmanís other work. Yet. Iím hoping future issues will turn me right around, but for now itís merely an interesting idea waiting for some fleshing out.



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