I’m not a fan of horror, but even I have to admit that there has been a string of really well filmed, really well acted, and really well put together horror movies lately. Lately, I’ve been noticing a pattern among some of the more well regarded horror films, namely each film takes a certain feeling and/or sense away from their protagonist. There’s the movie where its characters can’t see, where they can’t hear, and where they can’t speak. It’s films like these that show us things we take for granted and how it’s possible for humanity to overcome almost any obstacle.
“Human Remains” #1 runs with this concept but instead of taking away a physical sense, it explores what the world would look like if a monster took our emotional sense away from us.
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Sally Cantriano
Colored by Dearbhla Kelly
Lettered by Andworld Design
Dax and Bisa love each other. But in this new and terrifying world, love is dangerous. Feeling anything is dangerous. Earth has a new and terrible invader-monsters that deprive us of the very feelings that make us human.
A shocking tale of pent-up emotions, perilously loud sex, and forced compsure in the face of unspeakable horror…from one of the most celebrated writers in comics, Peter Milligan (X-Statix, Enigma, Shade, the Changing Man, Hellblazer) and breakout artist Sally Cantirino (I Walk With Monsters, The Final Girls).
“Human Remains” #1 is set in a world where some mysterious eldritch creature preys on people who display too much emotion. Anyone who gets too angry, upset, or frustrated is immediately gobbled up by a strange mass of claws and teeth that appears out of a portal from nowhere. Naturally, this worldwide crisis has a rather profound effect on everyone around the globe from world leaders to everyday citizens. Into this mess steps an ensemble cast of characters. One of them is Dr. Anjali Sharma, a government employee trying to figure out the origin of this creature while dealing with her aggressive military minded government co-workers all while trying to raise a family with young children. Also, there’s a woman named Jennifer McStay who is in a very abusive relationship, Rev. Jackson Hayes who is a disgruntled priest, and Nisa and Dax, two newlyweds who got married to piss off their parents and are just now realizing how attracted this creature is to strong emotions from disgruntled parents.
“Human Remains” #1 is written by Peter Milligan, a British comic book writer with a long history of using mainstream comics to introduce some weird and interesting ideas and themes. Milligan’s greatest strengths in “Human Remains” #1 are his world building and his characters. The first issue of the comic introduces an ensemble cast that shows what the world as a whole would look like if everyone was deprived of emotion. Considering that we know exactly what humanity would do in a real life crisis, Milligan’s display of people not taking the problem seriously and dismissing it as a baseless conspiracy only to be proven horrifyingly wrong is uncomfortably on point in today’s day and age. Aside from the big picture, the main cast of characters is introduced in an efficient and relatable manner and Milligan does a great job of giving the audience reasons to root for all of them and get through alive.
While “Human Remains” #1 does a great job of setting up the rules of the story and introducing the characters, it does have some plot and timing issues. While the second half of the comic shows the day the monster appeared on Earth, Milligan seems to want to start the story after human society has been living with the creature for some time. While starting a story “in media res” is a proven literary technique, Milligan doesn’t really do the best job showing the audience where the future ends and the present begins, which can make the book a bit difficult to follow. While the character moments really sell the book, a confusing timeline and sequence of events do handicap a great story.
The artwork for “Human Remains” #1 comes from Sally Cantriano and it goes a long way towards giving the book a very unique and interesting feel. Cantriano has a rough style of artwork that looks very hand drawn with a punk rock aesthetic. Her art gives the book the look and feel of a high quality zine or self published comic and while the script has plenty of captions to explain what is going on, Cantriano’s ability to portray emotion in a simple yet effective manner allows the reader to really connect with the cast of characters without the need for a whole lot of dialogue. It’s an art style that really nails the human aspect of horror, which is one of the most important things a horror story needs to do if it wants the audience to invest any sort of emotions into it.Continued below
While the human factor is important in horror, it’s also important for stories like this to have an interesting monster and plenty of gore, and while at first glance the art style is very well suited for this kind of heavy lifting, Cantriano definitely delivers. There are plenty of scenes of visceral blood, gore, and sheer human panic when the monster appears, and the creature itself has a weird, otherworldly design accompanied by plenty of tentacles and sharp bits that can readily impale and eviscerate dozens of helpless humans. It’s a cool design with just enough mystery to make the audience uncomfortable, but interested enough to want to learn more.
“Human Remains” #1 is a solid introduction to a brutal, visceral, soul crushing world where the barest hint of emotion can lead to a violent and bloody death. However, at its core it remains a character driven story with a cast of interesting people that you will want to root for and hope they survive.
Final Verdict: 8.9- There are some weird issues with the timeline of the comic and the artwork might not be to your taste, but it’s still a violent and bloody good time with some great characters and interesting things to say.