Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Pull List: They're Not Like Us #1 Review

I think I was overly ambitious this week when I was like, "Oh, sure, I can totally write two reviews the week of Christmas while working full time!" So apologies for being a day late on this. But driving three hours to see my family and then driving three hours back was kind of exhausting. You understand. :)

And nope, no spoilers below!

They're Not Like Us #1 Regular Cover
Via Image Comics
Now, I was not a fan of Eric Stephenson's Nowhere Men, which I discovered unfortunately after I'd purchased the trade paperback, so I went into this with quite a bit of trepidation. I even avoided reading it for a day or so, instead indulging on favorites like She-Hulk and Butterfly (which I'll be reviewing next). The ads in other Image books were enough to keep me interested, though: it was like an edgier X-Men or something, and I'm always looking for alternatives to the Big Two in comic publishing. I'm happy to report that I was in no way disappointed by the first issue of They're Not Like Us.

I mean, yes, the whole young people with mutant powers is not a new thing, obviously, nor is having a place where someone can escape the judgments of others to join people with similar gifts that have kept them at the fringes of "proper" society. But They're Not Like Us morphs a lot of these ideas into something new, where the characters, as mysterious as they are, are not on the side of good or evil. As much as I enjoy stories like The Lord of the Rings, where morals are incredibly simplistic and starkly delineated, I find that areas of gray are much more realistic. What would you do if you discovered that you were a powerful telepath? Or clairvoyant? Or superhumanly fast? It's not so easy to answer, I think, especially since it can't necessarily be answered in a vacuum: your choices afterward would cause certain effects that you couldn't predict.

As far as the structure of the comic goes, I loved how the story actually begins on the cover, with the main character, soon to be known as Syd, is standing on the edge of a building, ready to jump to her death. I doubt that this hasn't been done before - King Solomon wrote that all things are just repeats of what has come before them - but it's presented so effectively that it's striking. And things just kick into high gear, setting up the rest of the events quickly, like Orphan Black's first episode, so I have a feeling that everything that follows will continue apace. Most of Image's titles have the first arc completed by, at the latest, the sixth installment, and having Syd join the group of mutants within the second third of the book means that a lot can happen in five more issues.

I can definitely recognize Eric Stephenson's work here, especially in The Voice - a no-nonsense Machiavellian character - that is reminiscent of Nowhere Men, which I wouldn't normally attribute as a compliment, but in the case of this new series, it is. But thankfully, not everyone has the sort of "fuck everyone that isn't me or doesn't agree with my opinions" attitude, something I found incredibly annoying in most of the main characters in Nowhere Men. One of the more poignant moments is when Syd realizes that she's not a freak, and I felt an immediate connection with her, particularly because of revelations I've come to about my own personality. My favorite character as of right now happens to be Moon, who hasn't even gotten any lines yet, but her powers - the ability to create illusions - seem like they are going to be really cool to see drawn.

And speaking of that, oh, my God, the artwork by Simon Gane is beautiful. His style reminds me somewhat of Babs Tarr (Batgirl), but grittier and less concerned with perfection, and my tendency to dislike more sketchy styles is quickly waning, thanks to artists like Gane. One of my favorite panels is the giant Victorian Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters building, surrounded by palm trees and a red wrought-iron fence. I took one look at it and said to Three, "Um, yeah, I want to live there." Jordie Bellaire's colors just add that much more to the whole book: slightly candy-colored with a tendency to accent the gifted characters in front of the more nature-based hues of the backgrounds, really showing that they are something special, not like the rest of the world.

All in all, I am impressed with They're Not Like Us and will most definitely pick up the next issue on January 28th (OMG, it's almost 2015, you guys). The conclusion was unexpected, catapulting the idyllic haven created for these individuals into rather sinister territory, and I literally have no idea where the story is going to go. While Syd does seem to be the moral center, she has been placed in and out of psychiatric wards because she was different, so the chance to retaliate for those experiences might very well be tempting to her. It's a true test of her own ethics; is she going to succumb or will she fight against the system that's been established, therefore abandoning the only place where she feels at ease? Or is there another path that she can take? They're Not Like Us has the potential to be in my Best of 2015 if Stephenson and Gane keep this up.
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