Better anonymous than unappreciated.
We all know the feeling. The feeling of not belonging. At some point in everyone’s lives, they’re surrounded by people they feel they don’t fit in with. If you haven’t experienced that, please don’t tell me — you’re incredibly lucky. Alienated #1 obviously involves an alien landing on Earth, but that’s not really what this issue is about. It’s about the feeling of alienation that’s ever-present among teenagers. It’s about three kids named Sam who all experience this feeling in vastly different ways, and who have their lives irrevocably altered.
If there’s one thing I love in comics, it’s a strong sense of structure throughout an issue. The transitions between pages should feel purposeful, and each scene should add something tangible to the overall book beyond just plot. Spurrier and Wildgoose bring a structure to the book that’s just a delight to read — the issue is separated into three unique acts that aren’t specifically demarcated but are still very clear. The middle act is the most interesting of the three, as well — it transitions from the three separate characters’ individual narration boxes to a sort of mind-meld where all the captions interact with each other. The way the day is split into school periods may seem like a simple choice, but it’s one that works fantastically to make the passage of time clear. I’m also definitely a sucker for school settings where classes and periods are distinct, which makes this little segment really enjoyable.
The most important character in this issue is surprisingly not any of the Sams. Instead, it’s a little jerk named Leon, who is very quickly established to be the absolute worst. I mean seriously, if you think back to your high school days and try to recall that one kid who no one liked because they were mean to everyone, that’s Leon. Now maybe there’s a reason that he’s like that, but based on his bigoted language and predisposition for slurs, it’s very clear that he’s not someone to sympathize with. Spurrier does a fantastic job creating a character that manages to be so horrible that not only do I not feel bad when he suddenly dies, it’s instead relieving. There’s very little to feel bad for about his fate, which is an interesting twist on the trope of people who get powers accidentally killing someone. While his fate was clearly an accident, it doesn’t feel like it was really a bad thing.
Chris Wildgoose is a major part of what makes this issue work so well, and I honestly feel bad for not really talking about him sooner. André May’s colors alongside Wildgoose’s pencils create this really powerful atmosphere — everything feels familiar and “normal,” which makes the alien egg stand out so much from the rest of the book. Wildgoose and May put on a clinic in turning the mundane into the interesting, making the stereotypical high school suburbian world into something truly fascinating. Wildgoose also does a fantastic job making characters emote — there’s a lot of story being told through facial expressions, and it’s a major part of how well the issue flows from panel to panel. I could go on and on for a while about how so much story is told in individual panels, building the world around these characters just as much as it builds the characters themselves. It’s really a masterclass in visual storytelling.
Alienated #1 packs a lot of potential for what will likely be yet another incredible series from BOOM! Studios and all of the creators. It feels intensely personal yet still geared for a wide audience, and I cannot wait to see where it goes.