Hello! Welcome to this week’s edition of Bin Fodder. In today’s installment I reach back into the independent realm to unearth Image Comics clever book, Transhuman. It was written by Jonathan Hickman who has also penned works such as Pax Romana and Red Mass for Mars with art by JM Ringuet, known for his work on Warhammer 40K Damnation Crusade.
Transhuman takes an interesting angle on the telling of a story in comic form, one of a documentary. The documentary is of events that, where not real in our world, are real in the world in which the story is taking place. This is quite uncommon. In all my years of reading comics I can’t recall more than a handful of books that took this route even for an issue or two. The unknowledgeable reader may say, “tons of comics consist of an omnipotent character who speaks to the audience telling them the story. How is that different from this style?” But the fact is that an omnipotent storyteller in the book is there to act as a guide to inform the audience of what has happened, is happening and will happen. A documentary takes the angle of being in the moment and allowing an array of characters to tell the story, instead of just one.
Hickman should be given credit, even if you don’t like the story, for taking this route and making it work. Plenty of lesser writers would probably have come up short on the quality of the book. The story of Transhuman follows a documenter named Heinrich Dowidat who is attempting to uncover the mystery behind how the “transhumanist” movement got started, who the winners and losers were and how that all came to be. He conducts interviews with the major players on both sides and tries to help the audience understand why things ended up the way they did.
The “Transhumanist Movement” followed two fundamentally divergent paths. One being messing with human DNA in an attempt to create super-humans and the other being human modification via technological upgrades (a.k.a. robotics). During the story Dowidat uncovers the people behind the scenes, the venture capitalists that put up the millions upon millions of dollars to fund the research and keep the companies afloat. This part of the story is interesting if only due to the reality of it (which is, I guess, clearly what the author is going for in telling his story in documentary format…so kudos for that). And, granted, this reality is mixed equally with genetically enhanced monkeys, some of whom can talk, others of whom have been upgraded with retractable claws that jut out of their hands (Wolverine style) along with humans that have also been improved in various ways, like super strength and flight.
In the end it’s the robotics side that claims victory, somewhat due to the fact that the genetically enhanced monkeys sued the company that created them, winning both their freedom and a controlling interest in the company which they quickly ruined. But, it seems, even more due to the fact that the robotics people simply had better advertising and offered the first product (a cybernetic hand that doubled as a can opener) free of charge. And like crackheads to a crack dealer…first one is always free, the next one costs a boat load.
Transhuman has an air of social commentary mixed in to the message of the story, which overall is: don’t trust corporations. But it doesn’t detract at all from the story itself. The art, which is definitely in the category of gritty but stylistically appealing, keeps the reader engaged with vivid colors and tantalizing settings and characters. This book is certainly worth reading and I give it a rating of
So, my friends, go Bin Diving and find this and other gems!
Until next time,
This is Bin Fodder Guru Tim Blacksmith signing off!