Human Remains might be the scariest Vault series to date, and not because it’s the goriest Vault series to date, which it totally is. Seeing some guy get ripped apart by a giant skeleton bug in the first few pages isn’t even the thing that made me anxious. Instead, it was this face he made like “What have I done?” right before the unspeakable horror appeared.
In Human Remains, the world has been under attack from scary monsters appearing out of a void to rip apart anyone being too emotional. Everyone is trying desperately to keep their emotions bottled up, with varying degrees of success. There are parallels here to living under the threat of COVID, of course. Peter Milligan perfectly captures the anxiety and stress of what happens when A Very Bad Thing has been happening for a really long time. It also captures the small moments that keep us going despite The Very Bad Thing, even though these might be used as tools to break our hearts later on in the series. The introductions to the characters (even the ones who die immediately) are brutally intimate as they confront the other issues in their lives, compounding the horribleness of the time after the life-forms arrived.
All of that is to say, Human Remains is really really good. You pick it up and won’t be able to look away from this emotional jackhammer of a story. A lot of horror stories will keep their monsters hidden because what you imagine is probably worse than anything they could portray. Not here, though. The monsters are every bit as terrifying as the atmosphere would have you believe. Having full knowledge of this threat leads to everyone walking around the comic book world looking very tense and ready to lose it on the next guy that mansplains something to them in a meeting, but also knowing that losing self-control for a moment would be bad for everyone around.
As a last note, I think this comic would be well served to have a trigger warning at the beginning. There’s a portrayal of domestic violence—it’s only one page in the first issue but I think it’s the beginning of a storyline that’s pretty dark, and even by itself could be pretty upsetting to readers with previous trauma.
* Credit to Bobby @EmperorBojira for this great word