They’re Not Like Us #2 launched this week with an issue almost entirely focused on defining the group of gifted individuals rather than moving the action forward. Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane are focused on making a statement in these pages, but the support structure around that statement couldn’t quite hold up.
There’s not a lot that happens in this issue. Most of the pages are dedicated to describing the lifestyle of The Voice and the residents of the house to Syd. Two of the characters share the same story, giving the reader a unique look into their personalities without any exposition. Syd faces a moral dilemma when given the choice to join the house. She is appalled by the violence of the residents, but at the same time she has a chance to learn how to control her telepathy. Unfortunately, the dilemma is swept away so quickly that it undermines Syd’s internal struggle.
I admire Stephenson’s writing style. It’s sparse, but every word has meaning and conveys intent. The story is framed around an act of seemingly excessive violence. The characters justify these acts and these justifications help to define the characters as individuals. Still, it was an uncomfortable level of violence that ultimately detracted from my enjoyment of the story. The book does have a strong and smart message so far about fearing what is different. While it isn’t subtle, that message still frames the story in an interesting way that makes the violence palatable and perhaps necessary.
My biggest problem with the second issue is that it does nothing to advance the plot. It’s nice to examine these characters and their motivations, but being two issues in without an idea of the overarching narrative makes me cautious. There’s something brewing, but I would have liked some panels hinting at what to energize the issue. Syd is an interesting character for the most part and I hope that she continues to challenge The Voice and the residents rather than following the herd.
I’m a big fan of the art in this issue. Gane’s designs appear simple at first glance, but a closer look will reveal an incredible level of detailed linework in every panel. Whether he is drawing our main character or a bookshelf in the background, the details are consistently impressive. Jordie Bellaire does a great job coloring the issue with generally warm colors. I was especially impressed with the pages where the important parts of the story were framed in red. It was a nice touch and the artistic team seem to be in sync.
They’re Not Like Us #2 is a unique book with conflicting individual pieces. It’s aggressive with its message while also subtle with characterization. It’s a book where we learn a lot, but the story lacks any forward motion. If you’re looking for an action-driven story, you might want to pass on this one.