Welcome yet again, dear readers, to another Infernal Review. So far, we’ve seen web comics with vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts, mutant bears, and many other kinds of frightful things. Part of what makes all these things terrifying is how strange they are, how inhuman… how alien. If the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” has taught us anything, it’s that most aliens like humans. Others, on the other hand, are just…
Young Rose Marie Williams has been experiencing problems with what she thinks might be “sleepwalking”; blackouts, missing time, and sudden nose bleeds. Too afraid to tell her boyfriend, Roger, Rose undergoes hypnosis to learn the cause of her repeated lapses. It’s then that she discovers the startling truth about the aliens that have been quietly abducting her over the course of several nights. As terrifying as she finds her abductors, however, there is one to whom she feels a strange connection. His name is Hue and he’s the only one of his kind that can feel emotion. Being so different from the rest of his kind, Hue feels a desire to learn about humanity, a longing to be accepted, and a growing affection for Rose, the first human he’s ever met in person. As Hue, with the help of his friends, tries to grow closer with her, Rose struggles to adapt, and antics, aliens, and anarchy inevitably ensue. Unknown to our characters, however, something dark looms just over the horizon.
Trying Human is a sci-fi mystery set in a universe where extraterrestrials come to Earth all the time. You have your standard Greys, emotionless beings with psychic powers and an interest in humanity, the Reptoids, a race of humanoid lizards partially descended from Earth’s dinosaurs and divided into castes, and the as-of-yet unrevealed Nordics, the so-called “True Humans”. These species have been dealing with the United States’ government in secret for some time, completely unbeknownst to the general public, kept under wraps by the Majestic 12, twelve highly skilled government agents whose job it is to regulate and control alien activity on Earth.
The art for Trying Human is somewhat like that of Slightly Damned, in that they both start out rough, but improve greatly with time. This is partly due to the artist actively going back and redoing older chapters page by page, which would easily earn her extra points if I had a point system. The original art is a little flat and roughly shaded, looking almost like the storyboard for an animated movie, and sometimes the humans end up looking a bit like aliens themselves or like eerie puppets. However, the art, as it is now, is excellent, making good use of a mix of saturation and dark tones. Half-hidden in the backgrounds from time to time are alien-looking symbols that blend into the transitions and fade-outs between individual panels and pages and the paneling is often used to create unsettling effects. There are still a few scattered pages within the first four chapters that use the original art, as well as a couple later on that are still only line-work, but the comic as a whole has been given a nice polish. I also like how the different Grey characters actually distinct eye and badge colors to differentiate them.
It’s the little touches.
While things like speech bubbles are technically part of the art, I generally bundle them with the dialogue as they’re part of how the characters communicate in the comic. Here, the speech bubbles are used with a creative twist. Human speech in this comic is depicted with black font set against white bubbles, with the bubbles outlined in black. However, when Grey’s like Hue “speak”, the alienness of their telepathy is conveyed through the use of white font set against a black speech bubble with a white outline. It’s a simple touch, but it’s more eye-catching than one might think and it adds a subtle layer of depth to how the characters interact.
While I’ve so far only discussed Rose and Hue, the story of Trying Human is, in fact, twofold. Framing the chapters is a connecting story, told in monochrome flashbacks, depicting how EBE1, Hue’s “father”, became stranded on Earth several decades ago and how he, much like Hue, gradually became close with a young woman named Phillis. While the true significance of the flashbacks has yet to be revealed, over the course of the series it becomes increasingly obvious that there is indeed a connection between Phillis’ story and Rose’s. Much of the comic is also focused on Roger, Rose’s boyfriend, who leaves her at the beginning of the comic to unwittingly join Maj12 under the employ of one Dr. Glasner, the closest thing to a main antagonist so far, and a man with whom EBE1 shares an unsavory past. I say the closest thing to an antagonist, but as the story progresses, there is increasing foreshadowing of something approaching, something dark, something terrible…
Other characters in the comic include (but are not limited to) Quazky, Hue’s longtime Reptoid friend, his homo-homosexual brother Longus, Don, Longus’ current romantic pursuit, Shade and Tone, two of Hue’s Grey coworkers, the enigmatically tragic 8, and Walter, Phillis’ coworker and love interest (so far, only seen in the flashback story). A list of the cast as compiled by the author can be found here.
All in all, Trying Human is a great science fiction romance series, featuring goofy comedy, star-crossed lovers, political intrigue, alien life forms, and Men in Black analogues, yet at the same time there are the elements of psychological horror affiliated with madness and the unknown. It’s a strange little tale, but thus far it’s been a good one that reminds us that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than are dreamt of in our philosophies.
Trying Human was created by Emy Bitner. Trying Human, including all images used here, belongs to her. She has a deviantart account where she posts pages of her comics, as well as other material, definitely worth a look-see. Although the creator says the comic is meant for young adults, it’s certainly not safe for children, as there is some swearing, mature themes, and a fair amount of nudity. Depending on where you work, it might not even be safe there sometimes.
Also, quick query; what do the rabbit from Donnie Darko, the T-1000 from Terminator 2, and an angel have in common?