The Humans 4 (February 2015)

The Humans #4

It’s The Humans version of a bridging issue, except because of how Keller paces it out, it’s just the plot perturbing. Each issue of The Humans has revealed another potential of the comic and this one is no different. The ability to further the plot while distracting the reader with a solid “done in one” situation is getting rarer, but Keller certainly knows what he’s doing.

He and Neely work for readers’ dollars. It’s a little surprising to see such concern for the reader, actually. The Humans is a complex book, with lots of characters, lots of C plots, lots of scenery. Keller and Neely make sure the reader can digest all of it. There’s a lot of effort and value in the content.

Still, and it’s the pessimist in me, I hope Keller doesn’t do these performances too often. The Humans is high concept (sci-fi Planet of the Apes, home front Vietnam stuff) and Keller seems more than willing to work at that high concept. He ought to have fun, but not at the expense of the book’s more serious qualities.


Welcome to the Skin-Cage; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 3 (January 2015)

The Humans #3

Now this issue is really good. Keller and Neely are both on fire. Keller gives Neely a bunch to do–exploring the world of the Humans but also doing Johnny’s story in Vietnam. Keller’s dialogue is a lot better this issue once he’s just doing the story of the guy in his unit. There’s no politics in The Humans–so far, anyway–which makes the Vietnam story very different. It fits in a certain genre, but it’s detached from it.

There are multiple action set pieces, each with a different narrative pacing so Neely has to do something for each one. He does. The issue’s really good all around. The present-day stuff with the Humans as a biker gang is good, Johnny’s stuff in the present is good. Keller gives Neely a lot of art opportunities, past or present, and Neely runs with them all.

The Humans is just getting better and better. It’s a complex, smart, fun book.


Long Road Back From Hell; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 2 (December 2014)

The Humans #2

The Humans is something else. Keller does a lot with the script. I know last issue I was more impressed with Neely, but this issue is all Keller’s show. Even with it stumbles, it’s stumbling because Keller’s trying really hard to do something.

He’s doing a “Twilight Zone” episode, basically, and a rather good one. He’s got this societal stuff because, even though he’s doing the traditional ape species breakdowns from Planet of the Apes (with, beautifully, zero explanation), he’s taking it into account when he populates Humans’s 1970 Bakersfield. This issue has Johnny, the guy thought dead in Vietnam, coming home. It’s really ambitious.

And Keller does stumble. The talking heads scenes are hard going because he’s trying to get serious after being goofy. He doesn’t shift gracefully. Or maybe Neely doesn’t. Humans is thoughtful but still raw. Two issues isn’t enough to establish a pattern.

It’s another excellent issue. The Humans has more potential than I thought.


Return of the Living Dead; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

The Humans 1 (November 2014)

The Humans #1

The Humans revels in itself, in its gimmick. Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely love the idea of their comic–a sixties biker gang on a “planet of the apes”-type situation–and their enthusiasm comes across. Better than coming across, it never comes across forced. This issue builds, with Keller and Neely introducing ideas–visual and narrative devices–as it all unfolds.

Neely does great action scenes and he does great medium shot talking scenes. He handles crowds well, finding different ways to compose for the best effect. He’s the star of the book. Someone else might be able to do the gimmick, but Neely makes The Humans better than just its gimmick.

In fact, the book being so successful is what gets it through this first issue. It has excellent pacing–until the rushed denouement and soft cliffhanger–more than it has anything else in the writing. Keller has some good dialogue, but the flow is more impressive. It moves, but Keller and Neely make sure readers have everything they need to keep up.

I’m excited to see what they do next.


Humans for Life – Humans Till Death; writer, Keenan Marshall Keller; artist, Tom Neely; colorist, Kristina Collantes; publisher, Image Comics.

Popeye 4 (August 2012)


The Popeye feature suffers a little from lack of intelligent characters. For a second, I thought Castor Oyl would prove smart; he does not. Wimpy does show intelligence… and never gets recognized for it. But Langridge never loses track of him, which is sort of a reward. Langridge loses track of everyone at some point in the story.

It’s a very busy tale of a small (microscopic) kingdom Popeye and friends have to save. There’s lots of dialogue; Langridge wraps the exposition into the jokes beautifully. It’s well-written, it’s just a war story mixed with a detective story mixed with Popeye. It’s amazing Langridge is able to keep track of it at all.

The Sappo backup is a beautifully simple day at the beach. The jokes are universally strong, Langridge paces them all carefully, Neely’s artwork is lovely.

It’s a good comic, the backup’s just stronger than the feature.


Good Night, Blozo!; artist and letterer, Vince Musacchia; colorist, Luke McDonnell. Hero of the Beach; artist, colorist and letterer, Tom Neely. Writer, Roger Langridge; editor, Ted Adams, Craig Yoe and Clizia Gussoni; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Popeye 3 (July 2012)


This issue just has the Popeye story and it’s really more of a Wimpy story. Wimpy’s hamburger lust goes too far and he finds himself challenged to a boxing match over it. Popeye steps in to train him, with Wimpy resisting one every page.

The story’s got a great gag finish (though, surprisingly, Langridge doesn’t take enough time setting up the joke) and Tom Neely’s art is fantastic. There are a lot of settings–out on Popeye’s ship, around town, the boxing ring itself–and Neely impresses.

But what makes the issue outstanding is Langridge’s scenes. He builds up these long, involved scenes, with multiple comic strip payoffs but over extended periods. The first one, where Wimpy offends his nemesis, goes on for two or three pages and Langridge tells it on three layers, all building to the final panel.

Thanks to Langridge and the characters, of course, Popeye‘s exceptional.


The Phantom Crusher; writer, Roger Langridge; artist, colorist and letterer, Tom Neely; editors, Ted Adams, Craig Yoe and Clizia Gussoni; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Popeye 2 (June 2012)


Unexpectedly, the backup–John Sappo and Prof. O.G. Wotasnozzle and Sappo’s Wife Myrtle–is stronger than the lead Popeye story.

While the lead story is quite good, it’s a small story about Popeye getting into it with one of Olive Oyl’s latest suitors. The backup is even smaller, but Langridge excels with the constraint. In Popeye, he’s at play in Sweethaven but it’s reduced because his story centers around the Oyl’s new house.

The Sappo story has an even smaller setting and Langridge uses the constraint creatively.

He’s also dealing less with characters in the backup; in Popeye, one wonders if Langridge is dealing with the characters as typically portrayed–Olive’s a bit of a bitch, Popeye’s an idiot, Wimpy stumbles into things. Langridge is able to establish the backup’s simple characters in its teaser.

The Popeye story is still good, it just doesn’t excel like the Sappo story does.


The Worm Returns; writer, Roger Langridge; artist and letterer, Ken Wheaton; colorist, Luke McDonnell. John Sappo and Prof. O.G. Wotasnozzle and Sappo’s Wife Myrtle; writer, Langridge; artist and letterer, Tom Neely; colorist, McDonnell. Editors, Ted Adams, Craig You and Clizia Gussoni; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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