It’s an interesting conceit, using the cover as the first page of the story. That’s probably the most noteworthy positive about this comic for me. Even after the first two issues left a bad impression, I went into this one thinking that perhaps something about the nature of this team would reveal itself and complicate things in an interesting manner. That didn’t happen, and that’s ok. This comic probably just isn’t for me, and it’s probably time I step back from it. The third issue of They’re Not Like Us starts things off with newbie Syd fighting with teammate and mute Gruff. She attacks him in a rage for saying she hits like a girl (a strange comment to be insulted by but I get the connotation when it’s intended to mean girl = weak). Since last issue, it seems that a few months have passed, months during which Syd has honed her telepathy and developed into a brawler. Once Gruff remarks that she’s ready to go public, she, Gruff, Moon, Blue Girl and The Voice head to a public square in San Francisco to see whether Syd can manage blocking out the crowd’s thoughts once The Voice weakens his impact on her. Then some violent stuff happens, predictable violent stuff. Meanwhile Misery Kid pays Syd’s parents a visit at the hospital Syd had been staying at, her parents oblivious that she has been gone for quite some time, Misery Kid most likely enacting misery on them.
My major issue with They’re Not Like Us is how grating the elitist attitudes of the people in The Voice’s group and their lack of self-awareness, especially from The Voice who predictably can’t shut up. They mark a distinction between themselves and those without powers, positioning themselves as their superiors in every manner, and seeing themselves of arbiters of justice. However, the injustice they enact doesn’t make much sense. For instance, in this issue they assault a man who Moon believes is a pedophile since Moon has put an illusion on herself to appear as a small boy (to entrap him or just to mix things up isn’t made clear). Yet, the man that they attack never gets notice that he is being attacked due to his pedophilic tendencies, and not just because these people randomly selected him for a beating. Additionally though, even if he has pedophilic proclivities, they’re doesn’t seem to be any confirmation that he’s acted on them. Point being, there should be some moral grey area that The Voice’s team occupies, but they just still seems like bullies, or even sociopaths, actively seeking someone else to attack. They divvy the world into good and evil people, Syd included, and use their powers to assault ‘evil’ people publicly. Since they seem to have been around for some time, I question how they haven’t come up with a more sophisticated system than this. Perhaps they have and what we’re seeing is just the what they reveal about their operation to newbies like Syd.
Speaking of Syd, she hardly seems much different from the rest of her team at this point. Initially I thought she would continuously question the actions and motivations of the team, but other than a single moment of doubt, she engages in the same sort of violent thought and action as the rest of them, hardly expressing any resistance when told to attack someone. She speaks about having pent-up aggression, but no one in her group offers her a positive manner with which to deal with the origins of that frustration, and it’s clear that they intend to use her gifts for their own means. I feel like a bit of a dolt for going off into an analysis of the team and its characters with my scant psychology knowledge, but it felt like what I could most capably write about.
One thing I do find interesting about the art is how Simone Gane illustrates the fights as well as Syd’s moment in the Calm by putting the characters against a stark white background absent of details. It occurs quite a bit in this comic, and gives some good contrast to the blood as it flies off and drips from the characters. Gane pulls off some great choreography to these scenes, making the fights appear more like brawls than balletic orchestrations. I also find it interesting that Gane avoids being very showy when it comes to depicting the characters’ powers with Blue Girl’s super speed not depicted in any manner other than by her placing her beyond the space a person can reasonably travel within a single panel. Moon’s powers are the ones most on display here as they work well as a diversionary tactic, but even then Gane doesn’t do anything visually to show that a power is taking effect, a decision that adds to the realistic tone the comic desperately wants to convey.
That probably sums it up best for me, this comic is desperate to be taken seriously, and knowing Stephenson’s other work, it’s clear that he can do better. Maybe They’re Not Like Us will reach the heights of Nowhere Men. That would be really great, but until it does I’ll just reread my Nowhere Men trade again.
They're Not Like Us #3 Writer: Eric Stephenson Artist: Simon Gane Colorist: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Fonografiks Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 2/25/15 Format: Ongoing: Print/Digital
And of course here this issue discussed on our comic book podcast the CBMFP... which is like you.