Written by James Tynion IV (Dark Knights: Metal, Detective Comics) and beautifully illustrated by Eryk Donovan (Constantine: The Hellblazer, Memetic), Eugenic offers an innovative take on the apocalypse: The human race may simply birth a new species that replaces us. The result is a story packed with big ideas, overall distinguishing it as a standout sci-fi horror graphic novel.
The novel begins in the aftermath of a devastating pandemic, which is now over thanks to Dr. Cyrus Crane, a geneticist who came up with a cure. But the majority of people who took the cure are having children—unnatural children . . .
Eugenic is made up of this origin story plus two more spanning three centuries after the arrival of the children, who grew up with superior strength and size, and with no artificial divisions due to their strange features making everybody equal. A new division exists, however, between the original humans and their strange cousins, a division that becomes competition as to who will rule the world.
The ideas in Eugenic are powerful. Could genetics make the human race better, and if so, will it create a new ruling class? Scientists are already talking about the potential for “designer babies,” making the possibility of both happening very real. Genetic alterations could make us smarter, stronger, more attractive, and more resistant to aging and disease, but may be only available to those who can afford it. And for those who would become like gods, would they lose their humanity? Or would they regard their inferior cousins as not being real humans?
Eugenic plays with these ideas in an original way by making the genetic alterations available to the majority while excluding an immune minority. The “numans” promise utopia. The original humans, however, accomplished many beautiful things despite their flaws, with their many mistakes being the cost of free will. Eugenic asks what it means to be human, a question that becomes all the more tangible and important when humanity gains the means to change itself.
These ideas are packaged in titillating horror. The numans are monstrous in size and appearance, breed humans as pets and manipulate genetic lines, and coddle until they lose their patience and destroy. There’s plenty of hideousness on display in Eugenic, and just enough horror to drive its points home.
With so much information and the big leaps forward in time, however, a tradeoff is some readers may find the stories heavy on exposition. In each story, a central character reflects on their world and then acts to change history. One might wish each episode was a novel in its own right, which would allow deeper characterization and a more complex story to invest the reader.
Overall, Eugenic is top-notch sci-fi, the kind of brainy sci-fi many have grown to love about Black Mirror, sci-fi that makes readers ask big questions and think. Typically, technology promises to make humanity better but often only makes us more human, accentuating our strengths and flaws. Eugenic wonders what would happen if we used technology to turn ourselves into gods, whether we might lose our humanity entirely in the process.