Review: Always Human GN
Is there a word that encapsulates modern comics that feature artwork with a heavy emphasis on blushing? Like, what if blushing was a form of communication? I once described the emerging style of the past 10 years or so as the 'Genuine' comic trend and this definitely fits, but there's gotta be a sub-niche in there just for books like this and Suitor Armor. I mean I love it, I just feel compelled to have a set clarification for these types of books so I can shove them all into one recommendation category.
Anywho, Always Human is a popular Webtoon series (free online!) that creator Ari North describes as her sapphic sci-fi webcomic. It's pure romance and slice-of-(scifi)life, entirely character focused and just a sweet piece of work detailing the relationship between its main characters Sunati and Austen.
In this utopian future people have access to mods, a form of technology that allows them to enhance their health, minds, and appearances. Sunati is initially drawn to Austen out of the curiosity as to why Austen doesn't apparently use mods, assuming the stranger must be brave and confident enough to live life without any enhancements. She later learns that Austen suffers from a rare syndrome that rejects mods. As the story progresses it examines the growth of their relationship through that dynamic, as they both come to terms with the social difficulties of Austen's disability.
The sci-fi elements are very minimal and mostly act as decoration to the core romance thread of the story. If you're looking for a pure romance comic that focuses entirely on interpersonal drama and development then this is definitely going to be your jam. If you wanted a bit more though then just be aware that there's very little else the book focuses on. I don't want to say nothing happens because in the context of the relationship a lot happens, but there's really no additional plot (at least for Season 1). This volume is strictly people talking with each other about their feelings, so it's a lot of back and forth word balloons but also a lot of beautiful artwork. Similar to the plot though, the art can be a bit sparse. There's very little background work and a lot of white void spaces, all to enhance the focus on the characters and emotions.
There's also a great chunk of casual representation throughout the series, including Austen's agender friend Cayli and Sunati's old friend Rae who we learn is ace through a fun flashback. Ari North does an amazing job in just creating a piece of work that feels welcoming and inclusive to a broad range of readers, and the lack of any violence or other political drama allows for the audience to just feel comfortable in this warmly colored world. Seriously, this would be an amazing book to stock in classrooms and libraries.
If you're looking for a sweet lesbian love story and a lot of blushing then this should definitely be your jam. And if you're less interested in a pure romance comic, just keep this in mind for if you know anyone who may benefit from a book with a lot of healthy representation and a laid back story that can just make someone feel better about life.