One of my favorite things about webcomics – in fact, one of the reasons I love that medium so much – is that even stories that are based on seemingly ridiculous premises, or one might say, stories that were cooked up with the ingredients of failure, can be very successful and render its creators fame and fortune. One example that I very recently learned about is the webcomic Humans Absorbing Horrible Aliens. On this April 1st., 2015, I want to tell you more about it.
Maybe you can tell us in the comments about other similar – or less similar – examples of webcomics whose success is an utter surprise?
Note: It seems like the links to the cited webcomic pages do not work correctly, which may have to do something with the particular date this post was published. This will eventually be fixed.
If I wanted to describe Humans Absorbing Horrible Aliens in a single sentence, I would need to write something like this: An alien invasion story that pretty much follows the established body snatcher archetype, but is unique in that it not only includes both the invader – alien – and the invadee – human – viewpoints, but also switches – surprisingly seamless – between the macro- and the microscopic perspective.
While many of the webcomics that I like feature a diverse ensemble cast – that’s always one of the reasons I like them, in the first place – this comics really dials it up to eleven when it includes The Virus as (a) main character(s).
The way the virus characters are introduced is absolutely mind-blowing: The reader is kept in the dark – literally and figuratively – for seven or eight pages after they are introduced, by masterful use of page layout, panel cropping, speech bubble placement, depth-of-focus, and color scheme, but when you finally realize that these guys (and gals) are virae, you go back and reread the pages: oh yes, of course, of course.
Depicting the virus characters requires a mastery of establishing sense of scale, complementary to the usual science fiction problem of showing dimensions in space, and Humans Absorbing Horrible Aliens truly excels in it.
Integration between the microscopic view of the virus characters and the perspective of the human characters – the infection victims and the medical personnel that takes care of them – is achieved by some of the most spectacular examples of panel layout and framing, with panel borders that both enframe the virus story seamlessly and appear as instrument panel screens in the big picture.
The fight between infection and infectee, between invader and invadee, is presented very concisely, without overwhelming exposition or maid-and-butler dialogue, but it is nevertheless rich in diligently researched details
It is absolutely fascinating how this webcomic depicts the process behind the extremely fast evolution of viral quasi-species in terms of characters who face an adversity they can barely comprehend but constantly try to improve, and aspire to be better than their former selves.
And in fact, in the penultimate chapter, the comic achieves the impossible, and makes us question our own identity, our very humanity, when we are no longer sure who we are supposed to root for: The human infection victims, who boost their immune system with desperate measures, in order to survive an ordeal beyond imagination, or the millions of (biological warfare) agents, who ferociously change and adapt in the face of merciless mass extinction?
The finale has already begun, but it remains to be seen whether the comic can keep its momentum and uphold the tension when the story needs to pay off so many promises and answer so many open questions that were introduced by the numerous plot twists.
IMHO it really deserves to reach a powerful and convincing conclusion.
Please tell us in the comments where you expect this story to boldly go!