When you think of a Jonathan Hickman story, you probably don’t think of the humor.
You more likely associate his work with big ideas, science fiction applications, large scale sociological strata, political discourse, etc. Complex interweaving of superheroes, conspiracies, organizations, and large scale conflict. But not necessarily humor.
His third major work for Image Comics, a collaboration with JM Ringuet, however he gave us a different side to his work. Still laden with big ideas, some that bring to mind an overlap with works from Warren Ellis or Grant Morrison, but with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
And this one goes to eleven.
“Ah, well, Transhuman is the expression that refers to the evolutionary progression from Human to Posthuman.”
Transhuman by Hickman and Ringuet is a kind of mockumentary. It tells the story of two corporations that branched into different regions of transhumanism, following genetic engineering or technological enhancement. After discovering that combined research led to, er, complications.
While darkly funny, the story is kind of an absurd what if when it comes to superpowers in a more realistic world. It broaches the two different pathways that we could possibly achieve posthuman status and then works to basically tear them apart. It’s interesting to see essentially the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as interpreted through animal experimentation and hapless human volunteers. Made funnier when we see how the two interact. Throughout the story, there’s an ever present feeling that no matter which path we take, we arrive at ruin. And worldliness.
The presentation of the story is intriguing. Not just the dialogue driven, oral history type documentary, but also how Hickman adapts to working with an artist. Infographics are minimal. There are really only a few throughout the entire story. And there are no real text pages other than an introduction and a report. Instead we get Ringuet’s art, which in itself makes more sense as it’s meant to mimic a kind of tell all broadcast, with participants practically talking directly to the audience. Ringuet has an angular, boxy style that suits the offbeat and dark humor. It really comes out with the monkey designs.
““Nature abhors an unwillingness to truly evolve.”
Like Pax Romana Before it, it’s very interesting to see some of the initial seeds of ideas that will appear in different forms in later works. Transhuman from Hickman and Ringuet takes a skewer to practical real world application of transhumanism, the problems inherent in it, and that of venture capitalists in general. It’s a different, almost absurdist, angle on it that serves as a kind of counterpoint to what we’ll see later in Hickman’s X Men and elsewhere. Fascinating both on its own and in a greater context.
Classic Comic Compendium: Transhuman
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: JM Ringuet
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: March 26 – November 26 2008
Also available collected in Test Pattern: Jonathan Hickman Collection
Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!