Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Chris Wildgoose and André May
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Studios
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The most frustrating thing about being a teenager is that no one else seems to get it. Sure, you’re surrounded by peers going through similar changes and presumably family who have been there already, but try as they might, they just don’t understand. Trying to find out who you are is complicated by the scariness of putting yourself out there - you can't help but have thoughts, fears, and worries swirling around in your head in a seemingly constant rotation. With that in mind, it makes sense that Alienated #1 is a text-heavy issue. For other series, that can lead to sloppy pacing seemingly in opposition to a visual medium like comics. But with Simon Spurrier's script, it’s all in service of blossoming connection.
Even as we meet three characters named Sam, Spurrier shows us they've got three very different lives. There's Samuel, an awkward shut-in attempting to speak to the times we live in through online videos – although a weekly average of 43 views isn’t setting the world on fire just yet. There's Samantha, a senior who sees college as a way to get away from all the gossip and jokes that follows her around at school. Finally, there's Samir, another kid who’s trying to be easy-going in order to best fit in, whether that means pretending that he’s heard a particular song everyone’s in love with or accidentally giving away a coffee that was intended to be a projectile weapon.
Of course, when they encounter something extraterrestrial in the woods, the Three Sams come away from this feeling perhaps too close for comfort, as their three minds have become one and they can now hear each other’s thoughts. Whereas artist Chris Wildgoose introduces the three characters in separate but identical page layouts, it's when these three disparate lives are suddenly slammed together that Alienated really starts to take off. In particular, there's a great spread that collapses the Sams' individual headspaces into one shared space, as the creative team takes us through a day in the life - or lives - of these characters as they try to adapt to this mysterious phenomenon.
What makes this all work is the strong sense of character conveyed in the book from all involved. Spurrier’s gradual build to the otherworldly hook ensures the time spent with characters before it happens allows a chance to get to know them. Wildgoose’s character designs tell their own story too, with aspects like Samuel’s headphones, Samantha’s beanie hat and Samir’s hoodie. They’re all trying to cover themselves up from the world in some way. When it comes to André May and Jim Campbell’s contributions to this, the answer is color - from the outset, Samuel is linked to blue and isolation, Samantha with green and the idea of a fresh start, and Samir with red and the potential of anger. Integrated into both the character’s clothing and internal monologues from the outset, by the time these characters become mentally entangled, it’s already clear who is thinking what.
Alienated's concept gives our three protagonists the ability to hear what often goes unspoken. There are hints at backstory already being seeded, with Samantha’s being the most notable in terms of already connecting to the other thematic elements of the book. While some will point to E.T. or Chronicle for comparison, the tale also recalls Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Earshot” episode, in which Buffy also became able to hear the thoughts of those around her at school and ended up preventing a tragedy that no one else could because it was coming from the mind of one of the quiet ones. That too stemmed from a sense of alienation, and the fact that this story appears to be going in a science-fiction direction shows how ripe the basic premise is, providing this cast of teenage an opportunity to find themselves and each other.