After a mind-bending and excellent first issue, The Humans #2 by Keenan Keller and Tom Neely takes a more serious tone with unexpected depth and heart. In this alternate universe where apes run the world the time is post-Vietnam Bakersfield and the biker gang, The Humans, say goodbye to one of their fallen as they welcome back one of their own who was thought to have died in the war.
Whereas the first issue was an ode to the exploitation biker films of the 60s and 70s mixed with the Planet of the Apes, issue two leans more like Coming Home and Born on the Fourth of July as Johnny returns from the war angry, disillusioned and resentful. It's a sobering depiction considering the state of returning military personnel from our current wars. The Vietnam War was far more divisive and cruel to the brave soldiers who returned to a fractured United States than they deserved. The raw reality of our history is told through Johnny but luckily his biker family seem not only happy to see him but a willing support system. A touching sense of familial cohesiveness that resonates outside of this ape-run world. It's a universal theme of awareness, compassion and love.
Not exactly what you'd expect from a book like this but Keller clearly reveals he has more on his mind than biker gangs, drugs and sex.
The allegory aside The Humans really is a time machine to an uncertain time and Neely brings not only the feel and look of a comic book drawn in that period but also the vision of a director of exploitation films. The layouts of the panels while Johnny describes his time in the service are absolute genius.
The flashback cut scenes that serve as a halo around Johnny's head entail plenty of description and magnificently capture exposition in ways you could see in a film. It's an captivating device that works and elevates the story.
The Humans is a rare book that is certainly fun for its biker gang of apes premise on the surface but it has a lot more to say about veterans and the consequences of war. It is a smart and subversive piece of social commentary dressed as an exploitation pulp comic. This is worth your time and money. Grade A material.