Humanoids has had some high profile titles hit the shelves in the past year. From Young Mozart to Luisa: Now and Then, the comics and graphic novel publisher has brought fresh eyes to what’s possible for visual storytelling. On FCBD (Free Comic Book Day to the uninitiated), Humanoids will launch their H1 Universe. This will be a shared universe of comics focusing on characters who are superhuman but who are not superheroes, according to Kwanza Osajyefo. Osajyefo is one of the writers on Ignited (a lead title in the new universe) and one of the overall creators.
“The most exciting thing about H1 is the challenge of exploring new aspects of familiar territory,” Osajyefo says. For him, the characters in H1 are grounded in what confines, drives, and impacts human lives in terms of ethos, pathos, and logos. “H1 is introducing these supernatural elements into a world of facial recognition, social media, and physical laws. These are people with unique abilities that do upend their world, but don’t come with a spandex suit or a black-and-white view of their role in the world.”
While indie comics do a lot of great things, they also (for the most part) exist in single titles. That can be great; it’s hard to imagine Faith and Bitch Planet co-existing, for example. In single titles, creators have the freedom to create stories irrespective of the long, involved history that is part of the Marvel and DC universes.
Seeing Humanoids take on this project—multiple stories told in the same universe by creators from hugely varied backgrounds about characters that span cultures and ethnicities—is exciting for this girl. After all, I regularly want to quit Marvel because of their checkbox approach to diversity. Osajyefo, writer of Black, Black AF, and White, points out that H1 is “representative of the world around us. H1 is about our world if suddenly people developed superhuman abilities and what might actually happen. We take for granted what is supposed to happen because of certain approaches that dominate the [comics] medium.”
When I got a look at a few pages from Ignited, I was immediately impressed with what I was seeing. Phil Briones is the artist on the book, and I love the art. His style feels loose and relaxed, clear without trying to drive towards hyper-realism. Colors by Leonardo Paciarotti are bright and vibrant; this feels like what I think of when I think “superhero book.” When I got to the end of the preview pages, I was ready to demand more—a lot more. The writing, by Osajyefo and Mark Waid, is crisp and clear, telling the story while leaving plenty of room for the art. At least in my initial look, this is everything I want to see in a comic.
The FCBD Humanoids H1 book (check it out on the Humanoids website if you don’t have a local comics store or you’d prefer digital reading) also shows art from some of the original graphic novels that will exist in the universe. Every book, of course, has its own team of creators, bringing a different feel to each book, but there’s nothing here that doesn’t intrigue me. From “Moonlighting with globetrotting superpowered misfits,” as co-writer Mags Visaggio describes Strangelands to The Big Country, Quentin Peeples’ “story about a bad cop who is certain he is good chasing a killer who knows he’s bad but is trying to do something good.”
Initial H1 ongoing releases are:
- Ignited, written by Mark Waid and Kwanza Osajyefo, art by Phil Briones
- Omni, written by Devin Grayson, art by Ariela Kristantina
- Strangelands, written by Mags Visaggio and Darcie Little Badger, art by Khoi Pham
With OGN releases of:
- The Big Country, written by Quentin Peeples, art by Dennis Calero
- Meyer, written by Jonathan “Swifty” Lang, art by Andrea Mutti
- Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen, written by Helen Mullane, art by Dom Reardon and Matthew Dow Smith
Big names like Mark Waid and John Cassady have joined the overall H1 team, and their names may attract some long-time comics fans who are very familiar with their work. From what I’ve seen of the books, however, the comics themselves will have no trouble keeping the attention of fans.
Look for the H1 preview on FCBD, and check out Ignited, Strangelands, and Omni when they kick off in June. The OGNs are scheduled for September (Meyer), November (The Big Country), and January 2020 (Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen). And get ready, because I’m quite sure that the H1 Universe is about to take us on a hell of a ride.