Comic review: Human by Agrimbau and Varela
Diego Agrimbau - writer
Lucas Varela - art
From the Moebius-inspired cover image to the very attractive interior artwork and a science-fiction plot that pits human life against an alien environment half a million years in the future, Diego Agrimbau and Lucas Varela's Human has all the makings of a thrilling quality SF graphic novel. If it doesn't quite live up to expectations in terms of delivering any new ideas or insights into what it means to be human it certainly meets expectations elsewhere and is unlikely to disappoint.
Without any dialogue, the opening section presents an intriguing scene of a space-craft making a crash landing on what looks like an alien planet. An AI with its files are corrupted and unable to determine what its mission is emerges from the ruin of the craft and barely has time to grasp the situation to avoid getting ripped apart by one of the primitive red-faced monkey like lifeforms on the planet. Assisted by a robot protector however, it manages to remain in one piece and establish that the remainder of the AI team need saving from threats from other dangerous lifeforms.
The AI discovers that he is Alpha and determines that his duty must be to rescue the human that they have found in a capsule on the half-destroyed ship. When revived, the scientist Robert explains that they are not on an alien planet but have returned to Earth on the European continent in the year 553180. The ship has been orbiting earth for over half a million years waiting for the ecosystems to regenerate, and now he plans to revive his wife June, a cyber-anthropologist who should be nearby and set about rebuilding Earth from scratch. Travelling any distance in this post-apocalyptic world however is going to be dangerous with a reduced team and hosts of unknown creatures.
This you can imagine ought to look fantastic in a graphic novel: and it does. Lucas Varela's artwork is not as much Moebius as the cover image might suggest, but rather a simpler European clear line art style in a limited colour palette of red, grey, flesh and black with a little bit of a Mike Mignola influence in the spot blacks and the creature designs. The whole thing is beautifully laid out and paced to tell the story with the minimum of exposition. Diego Agrimbau's far-future story provides a lot of SF potential that the artwork certainly lives up to, looking at humanity through the eye of an AI, with a view towards where ecological disaster will eventually lead humanity.
It also provides an opportunity to tackle some big basic questions about the nature of humanity, questions of good and evil, right and wrong. And, since it is essentially a new world situation that humanity is trying to control, matters of colonialism and abuse of power inevitably come up. The treatment of these questions is however a little simplistic in outlook, not pursuing any of these topics in any depth. There's nothing for example that is as original, insightful or imaginative in its exploration of human nature and its capacity to develop as Moebius's The World of Edena. Agrimbau and Varela's Human tends to fall back on old ideas and behaviours, but who knows, that might indeed be the reality of being human.