By Sparky Greene, Louis Pieper (Critical Mass; 2006-09)

This four-issue comic miniseries, the first of Sparky Greene’s AGE OF INSECTS saga, is as prestigious as these things get. It’s presented in magazine sized format with ultra-glossy paper, no ads of any sort and sumptuous cover art by Ben Templesmith. Say what you like about the story and artwork, but you can’t fault Critical Mass’ presentation.

THE AGE OF INSECTS: NOT HUMAN tells of a species of human-insect hybrids called “brids,” led by a multi-armed freak named Darwin who wants to take over the Earth, and a band of human “Purity Troopers” looking to repel the brids. There’s also a writer named Flynn suffering from odd dreams and visions that hint at his true brid nature, and a big-titted blonde newscaster who exists so Flynn can have someone to bang–and eventually rescue from the brid’s clutches.

The epic narrative is related through various strands and viewpoints, and frequently broken up (WATCHMEN-like) by textual interludes (newspaper clippings, pages from books, etc). That doesn’t change the fact that the story is quite traditional at heart, and builds to a rather predictable climax in which Flynn faces down the brid’s queen in an all-out battle for dominance. I wouldn’t dream of revealing who wins.

However, the story continues on from that climax, and for far longer than you might expect. The concluding passages have a genuinely subversive air in their suggestion that humanity might not deserve to inherit the Earth. The insects, as author Sparky Greene makes clear on several occasions, were here before us, and will most likely outlast us, which may just be for the best.

What really gives this series its kick is the nifty Richard Corben-esque artwork by Louis Pieper. Rich and colorful, Pieper’s art excels in its depictions of futuristic warfare and, as the narrative grows steadily “buggier” (with malevolent insect swarms terrorizing humans), appropriately gross and creepy. Particularly unforgettable is the climax, which despite being unremarkable from a narrative standpoint is a visually amazing cavalcade of insectoid insanity that all-but leaps off the page.