Hitting the shelves this Wednesday from BOOM! Studios is the second in the new science-fiction adventure comic Alienated. After a magnificent opening issue last month, the creators expand on the core premise while remembering that character is key.
One of the tropes of the Slasher Horror Movie is that the protagonists are teenagers, who simply react to situations without any thought and often in the most ridiculous of ways. This is of course necessary for the plot to move forward. Without them the first victim would lock the killer in the house and phone the police from a safe distance.
This trope is just as popular in science-fiction because the way that a child, or young adult, would react to an alien creature that can read your mind and telegraph your thoughts to others is different to how the average adult would react. This is important to remember when reading Alienated by Simon Spurrier and Chris Wildgoose.
In this second issue, the central characters are beginning to learn exactly what the strange alien life-form, nicknamed Chip, can do for them. However, there is still a lot of unknowns and there has already been one casualty.
Spurrier aims to balance the childlike wonder at the alien with the corruptible force that the alien’s power brings. He packs the comic with the lives of these young adults and the dramas, traumas, and experiences that they face on a daily basis. The central concept of Alienated is the hardships that the teenagers face: the alien intervention is just a plot device that enables Spurrier to examine these children’s lives.
At times it’s brutal and scary, at other times it’s amazing and awe inspiring. This is exactly what it is like growing up. Everything is heightened, over the top, life or death. There is no middle ground being a teenager and reading this comic portrays this perfectly. The central characters experiment with their new powers will little regard for the consequences but how long will that last? Already, two issues deep, Spurrier is changing the game, introducing the effects of the actions the teenagers have taken.
Wildgoose has a very distinctive art style. It suits young adult comics as it is very precise and descriptive. The character design is wonderful, with each cast member an instantly recognisable figure. The scenes are full of personality and honest interactions. The fine lines of Wildgoose’s inks makes it possible to fill the panels with detail without over complicating anything.
As the audience moves through the story they can follow the main plot from panel to panel with ease but just as easily stop and ponder the details in the background. In the very first panel there are a number of interactions between characters, each telling their own little story. However, this actually sets up the theme for the comic as a whole.
Wildgoose loves to add tiny details to scenes because it makes the world of Alienated a much fuller experience. It also helps with the storytelling later in the comic. As various situations arise the background begins to play a part in highlighting elements of the plot, becoming as important as Sam, Samantha or Samir. There are some wondrous and expressive uses of background in this comic, which is not something that you get to say a lot.
Letters and Colors
Another pleasure of Alienated is Jim Campbell’s lettering. There are a lot of interactions in this comic, spoken and thought projected, not to mention internal dialogues and messages between the characters. In short, Campbell has a lot to do. The shape of the speech balloons differ between the types of interaction so it is easy to tell when words are spoken out loud or transmitted internally.
Campbell gives all of the text personality, a great achievement indeed. From the characters speech to the sound effects and even the notes left to Sam by his mother, each element is treated with great care and attention.
No review of Alienated would be complete without highlighting the exceptional coloring job by Andre May. Last issue, May set a president for how he would approach the coloring of this comic. Each of the three Sam’s have their own color allocated to them which is not only used in the clothes that they wear but seeps into the backgrounds, their speech, even in their fantasies.
The colors not only accentuate the personalities but they help set mood and theme. A dream sequence early on is colored a sickly green to represent the uneasiness of the situation and the feeling of the character witnessing the turn of events. This uneasiness is present in each panel and after just three panels the reader is experiencing the same emotional reaction as the dreamer.
The threads of this plot are winding and engaging. Some of it feels familiar, like a comfortable Sunday afternoon film, but it also challenges you as a reader. It forces you to look at a situation from one point of view but then, like a sneaky mischievous imp, shows you the other side. The concept of hero and villain has no place in Alienated.
The plot is engaging, the art engrossing, and the outcome is a comic that simply won’t let you put it down. It’s almost as if Chip has mentally grabbed you and rooted you to the spot while he feeds upon your enjoyment. Spurrier and Wildgoose are on to a winner with this blend of 1980’s science-fiction movie and modern social commentary.