Our portrayal of aliens in popular media has evolved from the little green men and “the gray ones” that were so prevalent in the 50's, but in Trying Human, a webcomic by Emy Bitner, all kinds of aliens appear, including the classic gray ones. Tall, pale, thing, and with large eyes, these are the aliens that have the most focus in this story, though there are other species populating the story as well, including other aliens and, of course, humans.
Trying Human is named after the trying human circuit, a small device that allows aliens to appear human (or at least mostly human). The story centers on several characters, both human and alien. First there's Rose, a young woman who works as a secretary in a New York City police station. She keeps experiencing periods of blackouts, sleepwalking, and nose bleeds, all clearly evidence of her regular abduction by aliens.
Then there's Hue, a Grey who experiences human emotions and is particularly interested in Rose (possibly in a romantic way?). Hue is an outsider among other Greys who don't experience emotions, and he even befriended one of the Terran Raptoids, an uncommon occurrence.
Throw into the mix Roger, Rose's boyfriend who has just gotten a job as the newest agent of a secret government organization tasked with keeping knowledge of the presence of aliens away from the general population.
This story is a complex dance, not only through space (har har!) but also through time. At the beginning of each chapter we see a flashback to 1947 when the commander of the Greys (who is still commander in the present) crashed to Earth and was held in a secret government facility, with only one woman, Phillis, as a friendly face.
Mysteries abound. What are the aliens doing abducting humans? Why is the government allowing them to carry out such experiments? What happened in 1947 that was so traumatic for all the people involved? Not only this, but there are also several of characters that show up both in the flashbacks and in the present, and not all of them are aliens. How have they lasted this long. What is going on?!
The story does a good job of keeping interest and introducing plot twists and new mysteries for the most part, though the narrative does get somewhat confusing in places, especially because the reader has to keep track of a lot of different story lines involving many different characters, some of which are aliens (the fact that they are aliens adds yet another layer of mystery; what motivates them? Etc.). On the whole, the story moves at a good pace.
I've mentioned this several times now, but one of my absolute favorite things is watching the art progress throughout the comic. Trying Human is one such example. The slight difficultly in this case, however, is that the artist is currently redrawing some of the earlier pages for an upcoming published volume, but the order in which she is redrawing doesn't quite seem to be numerical so some pages are newer-looking and others are not. Basically the progression isn't as smooth as it is in most cases. Regardless! It is always refreshing to be able to see where the art has gotten to. Also, some of the pages are missing, and it's unclear whether that is a coding issue, or whether those are the pages currently being redrawn.
Roger's progress. Looking handsome there, Roger (at least later on).
The art style itself is bright and cartoony, lending itself well to the light tone of the story but still allowing for the more sinister and dramatic turns. I look forward to unraveling all of the mysteries that are Trying Human.
Images copyright of Emy Bitner.