Review by Frank Plowright
My Life Among Humans revolves around the very simple idea of an alien arriving on Earth and wanting to experience what humanity is and feels. In any form of fiction we’re so used to aliens being treated as threats, and most of the time actually being threats, that Jed McGowan’s sedate and analytical approach is surprising and pleasing.
Despite using an insectoid design, McGowan’s alien is non-threatening, and the narrative captions suggest a genuine desire to learn about humanity, which may or may not put them at odds with those in charge of the mission. The first human encountered is Will, unknowingly infected with nano-spores that embed themselves and transmit Will’s thoughts and doings back to the alien. Will’s an awkward type, smart, but not the most social, while the alien of necessity leads a solitary existence, not permitted to be seen by humans, so only emerging from its disguised craft at night. It’s curious, though, and that prompts a discovery.
It’s unusual for a digitally rendered graphic novel to have such a melancholy tone, yet that’s part of the concept and extremely well maintained by McGowan despite the style of art being more commonly associated with cheery animation. Loneliness and isolation provide the prevailing moods, and McGowan’s panels emphasise space.
Relatively early in the book there’s a turning point that seemingly helps the alien, but actually proves a great problem that could lead to it being revealed. There’s a clever twist by McGowan who supplies the alien with an all too human response to the problem: try to cover it up. If it weren’t for the alien providing the sole viewpoint this would seem all too sinister, but because we understand the alien’s reactions the result is instead all too logical.
McGowan builds to a smart and ultimately hopeful ending for humanity’s first contact with aliens in what’s a smart and ultimately hopeful story, that’s also sweet, charming and beautifully drawn.