Post-Apocalyptic stories are always a little tricky. The genre has been pretty prominent since the turn of the century, but in the last thirty or so years it's really been exploited. Whether we're talking about movies like The Postman or Waterworld, or video games like Fallout or even our culture's long love affair with zombies, the repercussions of the end of the world are something we've seen before time and time again. That's why it's nice when a story about the survivors of the apocalypse is well done and offers a new look at end of the world life. Ted Mckeever's The Superannuated Man is one such breath of fresh air in the oft visited genre of the aftermath. Though it does rely on some mainstays, such as mutants, it sets up a world that feels both unvisited and interesting.
We're introduced to the eponymous Superannuated Man along with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson about the fluctuating state of the aquatic food-chain. This point pretty sufficiently sets up the rest of the issue as we find that this old man, the last human in the town of Blackwater, is surrounded by mutated animals that see him as kind of a bogeyman that haunts their town. We also get a pretty clear glimpse into the mind of the old man as he holds a pretty lengthy conversation with a mannequin (who is also his captain). He's been the only human around for an undisclosed amount of time, and the fragility of his mental state shows it well. But again, it's not surprising considering this old man lives in a town where giant mutated rhino men roam the back alleys.
The world that Mckeever has created for this story is pretty astounding, from the monolithic composite of ships that the old man calls home to the backdrop of Blackwater itself. The tiny details are great. Things like posters pointing to human evacuation or the various tools and devices that the old man has in his boathouse. It adds a layer to the world that adds to the depth. Equally outstanding are the character designs. The little fish people are weird looking but also kind of familiar. The mutant hyena and rhino are downright grotesque in how unsettlingly real they look. Then there's the language. The mutants have their own form of English that's different enough to be strange, but is also weirdly easy to read. It flows off the tongue so easily it's kind of poetic. When we're first introduced to the old man, his voice is distorted by his snorkel. But then he speaks surprisingly well for someone who's only had their a mannequin to talk to for god knows how long. The monotone coloring of the book works well to provide a sense of bleakness to the world. It's not a bright and shiny future. It's the end of human civilization, and a new group is at the top of the food-chain. But that bleakness doesn't necessarily translate into hopelessness, and that's where the real strength of the story comes from.
Save for the ominous Thompson quote, the old man never really comes off as hopeless. In fact, he's pretty optimistic. The good vibe most definitely comes from the fact that he's very clearly gone mad in his isolation, but he also doesn't seem to dwell on it. He's got a companion for conversation (and sharing clothes) and he's got a pretty strong reputation amongst the locals that he seems relatively pleased with. Sure, there are hints that the unspoken truce that he has with the mutants is slowly eroding, but he's still content living in his boat fortress. It's a pretty different take on the idea of being the last human, but it's also refreshing. The Superannuated Man is definitely in the post-apocalyptic genre of stories. It's a tale of the last human in a strange new world where he'll have to survive weird and surprising dangers. What sets this issue apart from the rest of the genre is how fresh and interesting it all feels. This issue is definitely worth it, and hopefully the rest of the series is equally as strange and exciting.