“All horror is a commentary on a certain moment in history,” according to writer James Tynion IV. This is especially true of Eugenic, the third of three Boom! Studios-published horror stories created by Tynion and artist Eryk Donovan that each depict the end of human life on earth as we know it. The series (Memetic, Cognetic, and Eugenic) share some basic similarities, including gross-out body horror, a looming sense of inevitability, and the transformation of a metaphor into the literal manifestation of our destruction. All three deal with the fundamental ways in which people relate to one another. However, each book has tapped into a different anxiety-inducing aspect of modern society and explored the catastrophic destinations that could be waiting for us as a product of our rapid and unfettered development.
In contrast to Memetic and Cognetic, stories that Donovan terms “apocalypses of the mind”, Eugenic deals with a total metamorphosis, down to the most fundamental genetic level. While the previous two series feature rapid and violent Armageddon events that unfold over a condensed period of time, Eugenic #2 picks up 200 years after the events of #1. Without spoiling too much about the first issue (as I’d love for this review to compel a new fan to pick up both issues this week), the world’s remaining humans are now confined in nine “Pariah Cities” and are subject to the whims of genetically perfected and functionally identical “Numans” who now dominate the world. The second issue follows Rebekka, a human living in Pariah Nine, as she attempts to reveal the truth behind the Numans’ true intentions for the remnants of eugenically-unenhanced humankind.
Tynion gets an opportunity in this issue to really show off his world-building skills, and the creepy dystopian reality he’s crafted for Eugenic #2 is suitably unsettling. Small touches, like the way the citizens of Pariah Nine paint their faces to resemble those of their Numan masters, underscore the twisted Stockholm Syndrome that has afflicted the Pariah peoples. The words and phrases scrawled across the structures and buildings of the city, however, reveal the unrest simmering just beneath the squalid surface of the Pariah Cities. And the reality of the Numans’ treatment of the humans seems all the more horrifying when set against the soaring rhetoric and flowery imagery broadcasted by the Numan leaders.
Fortunately, Donovan’s body horror matches the quality of Tynion’s storytelling and continues to be chilling and gruesome, from the twisted designs of the scramble-faced Numans to the horrors Rebekka eventually uncovers at the heart of the city. The creators cite the work of David Cronenberg as an inspiration, and it’s certainly an influence that shines through clearly. The climactic scenes of Eugenic #2 stand alongside the most shocking images featured throughout the apocalypse trilogy, so those who’ve enjoyed the visceral thrills delivered by Donovan thus far will definitely want to continue reading.
Even as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked genetic tampering, the importance of diversity and identity, and the very real capacity of the few (or even an individual) to impose their will upon the world, Eugenic thankfully doesn’t beat the reader over the head with its values. Instead, it depicts a dystopian future in which these scenarios have played out to their most tragic conclusions in a way that encourages contemplation of these topics. Fans of provocative, organic horror shouldn’t miss Eugenic. (4.5/5)
(W) James TynionIV (A/CA) Eryk Donovan