They’re Not Like Us, Volume 1
by Eric Stephenson (July 2015)
We all have advantages over one another, but what if you were capable of things most of us can only imagine? What would you do – and who would you be? A doctor? An athlete? A soldier? A hero? Everyone has to make a choice about how to use the abilities they’re born with… but they’re not like us.
Graphic Novel Review
Imagine you’re a young mutant, confused and frightened by psychic abilities that no one believes or understands. Then a strange man shows up to tell you you’re special, whisks you away to a fancy house full of other mutants, and asks you to join them.
But The Voice doesn’t have any of Xavier’s altruism. He’s brutal and unforgiving to Normals, and manipulative and domineering of the mutants he controls.
Okay, how about Magneto? A good antihero is just as compelling, after all.
Nope. The Voice gets a big fat zero on the charm scale. He’s utterly broken on the inside – not in the way that makes you want to help fix him, but in the way that makes him break everyone he can just to not feel so alone. Oh, and the price to join this group of anarchic hipsters? You are to go kill your parents.
Syd, the main character of They’re Not Like Us, isn’t so sure about The Voice’s offer. Her doubts and rebellion could make it a clever reversal of superpower conventions. But she’s not particularly likeable either, so it’s hard to work up much interest in what happens to any of them.
A weak plot and poor pacing make They’re Not Like Us drag. Characters spend page after page talking, with little action to break up the dialogue. It’s interesting at first, but quickly becomes a chore to read.
The characters are distinct and diverse, beyond their special powers. In a better paced, less cynical story, it would have been a pleasure to get to know them. But their personalities are nearly lost behind endless talking heads and distant origin stories relayed in emotionless monotone.
The art of They’re Not Like Us provides a strikingly different reading experience. The artsy overdrawn style and fashion plate feel accentuates the youth and stylishness of the characters and their emo dream house. I loved the use of colors to reflect shifting emotions and attention. When Syd uses her powers to focus, the things she’s tuning out fade to muted pastels; when she’s reflective and fearful, the scene turns dark and full of shadows.
They’re Not Like Us treads familiar ground, but it does so with a moral blankness and hipster ironicism that makes it work on an intellectual level. If the reversal and deconstruction of X-Men holds interest for you, give it a try. But unlikeable characters, emotionless delivery, and a tendency toward talking heads make it a dry read that won’t be for everyone.
Recommended for those in search of intellectual comics or a cynical take on superpowered groups.