Alibi V.25 No.29 • July 21-27, 2016 

Comic Reviews

They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young

They’re Not Like Us

They're Not Like Us

Eric Stephenson
Image Comics
144 pages, TPB
$9.99

Professor Charles Xavier had a dream, but The Voice only has rules. This is important to note as They're Not Like Us is very much a re-imagining of the themes found in Marvel's X-Men series—while the themes are nothing new, this is still somewhat sacred territory to be treading on. Luckily for this book's creative team, they take the subject to new depths and score big. Writer Eric Stephenson decides early on that his group of young “gifted” kids are no heroes. They make most of their decisions based around the necessity of self-preservation. These young adults have spent their entire lives being abused and feeling ashamed of their gifts, and they want to turn the tables. When compared directly to X-Men. this superhero series can be read as a nihilistic take on the same plot. While Lee and Kirby where trying to discuss the racial inequality issues of their time period, Stephenson makes it clear that when the current generation is put in this situation they don't want to try for equality—then want to exact revenge. The execution sometimes comes off as very elitist, and the book too often reeks of a holier-than-thou attitude toward us common folk. The story starts with newcomer Syd being shown the ropes on how the group operates by its leader, The Voice. It quickly becomes apparent that even the best ideas can have a few cracks. The cracks show through via the other members of the cast. Characters like Fagen, a pyrokinetic who ignores his abandonment issues and instead hides behind aggressive behavior, or the conflicted and depressed Blurgirl, who even early on seems to be showing the negative effects of living by The Voice's harsh rules. The Voice himself is rendered as jaded and soured by the events that brought him to his current situation. Sorrow is evident in some of the gifted kids as they come to terms with choices they have made that can't be undone. Syd is challenged by the fact that, good or bad, these toxic friendships have something to offer him—an alternative to loneliness. Illustrator Simon Gane does an incredible job of drawing a spark into each of the characters. He makes clear through posture and appearance each characters personality. Combined with an excellent sense of action and exquisite panel work, Gane manages to bring this group of super-powered misfits to life on the page and keep readers steadily engaged. This ongoing series from Image has only just begun, but it clearly has places to go and stories to tell. The cast is in for a lot of trials and tribulations. And with it being so easy to identify with or vilify them, this book has a strong head of steam going into its long haul. They're not like us, but the question is: Would we want to be like them?