In the words of Marty Mcfly, things are getting heavy in Alienated. As we’ve seen in previous issues, three high school-aged kids who didn’t know each other are now telepathically tethered to a mysterious alien named Chip. It also seems to have incredible reality-bending powers, and with such great power in the hands of teenagers, we can see controlling themselves has become difficult. The last two issues gave Samantha and Samuel a chance to use Chip on their own with varying levels of results, and now it’s time for Samir to see some dark truths.
Fair warning: this issue deals with the very serious subject matter. Samir has appeared to be more empathetic up until this point, but in the opening, we see he’s frustrated with his friends and uses some self-distraction to take Chip for a spin on his own. Much of the book involves Samir’s adventure coming to terms with his father, himself, and an act he attempts to self-harm with his telepathic buddies reacting emotionally to the vibes he’s putting out. It’s a revealing issue that suits the series’ ability to show different types of teenagers and their struggles as they grow up as Samir is a bit more closed off from the rest and hides his emotions.
This issue also does a lot to show how connected these characters are, for better or worse. Chip continues to develop over the course of the series and you see a lot of growth — possibly for the worst. A major conflict appears to be brewing that may force these three teenagers against each other, but for the most part, they’ve been left to deal with their issues on their own. Writer Si Spurrier does a good job reminding us these characters are tethered as Samir calls Samantha out for something we learned the last issue. It’s a reminder that, especially at this age, you think you have your secrets but even without telepathy others can see you’re going through pain.
With pain comes acts that are unforgivable. I have to say Spurrier and artist Chris Wildgoose are really making me hate these characters. Samir might have been the most likable, but what he puts Chip through is akin to hurting a pet. Of course, I may be oversimplifying what Chip is since we barely know him, but it’s hard to read some of this seeing the pain the poor thing is going through.
The art by Wildgoose is out of this world good. There are some seriously trippy moments in this issue, and I’m starting to believe Chip may be evil, or at least the teenagers are making him worse. The creature has always been incredibly emotive in the background even when not the focus in panels in previous issues, and that continues here in haunting sorts of ways. There are two jaw-dropping full-page splashes in this issue that further realize the mind-trip that Chip can send our characters on. The use of Ben-Day dots heightens the comic book feel, and André May’s colors lean into the brightness and classic comic-book look when things get trippy.
This is an issue I wasn’t quite prepared to take on, but I’m glad for it. The message is strong by its end, but it’s a heavy subject that may affect others differently if they’re not in the right mindset. Once again though, Alienated proves it has its thumb on the pulse of being a teenager who is lost, forgotten, and going through deep emotional journeys they think they’re alone in. As the alien Chip proves, these three characters may be lucky they’re not alone.