We all know the story of E.T. whether we want to or not: shy, lonely kid in suburbia finds a little, cute alien with incredible powers. However, Simon Spurrier and Chris Wildgoose decided to take this basic, wholesome premise and supercharge it.
In Alienated, three different kids from three different backgrounds stumble across a cute alien, but it’s got so much power, it’s deadly. How will these kids harness this power? For good, evil, or both?
Tonally, Spurrier and Wildgoose excellently juggle the adventurous and darker aspects of YA fiction and sci-fi in general. But beyond just being a “more mature E.T.”, the creative team use this premise to tackle serious issues like depression, anger, suicide, and political discontentment. Each of the three protagonists reflect diverse perspectives and struggles. Like the best genre stories, the heightened elements in Alienated serve the characters and their journeys, not to mention the heady themes about morality.
To add to this, Wildgoose’s art manages to balance the tones with his expressive yet precise cartooning. The color work is immensely effective at conveying emotions no matter the intensity or subtlety; especially when colors are associated with specific characters. Also, whenever we’re given scenes dealing with alien powers, Wildgoose conveys the powers stretching at the characters literally; their forms twisted and contorted like taffy. It’s freaky, visually startling stuff that functions as both unnerving and wondrous.
Granted, the characters are fairly stereotypical and their problems can be so blunt it comes across as less realistic and believable. But unlike many comics and media dealing with high schoolers, Spurrier allows us to empathize with the characters while also leading them to development–overcoming flaws.
If there are any more specific flaws, it’s that several issues end on certain cliffhanger moments…only to quickly resolve them offhand in the next. One gets the impression Spurrier laid out a little too much plot, which is felt especially at the end when you end up wondering what happened to a variety of crucial side characters to only get a tepid shrug of a resolution response.
Overall, Alienated is a remarkable balancing act that gives us angst but also hope. Through genre conventions, Spurrier and Wildgoose push past cliches and stereotypes to get to an engaging, freaky creation that’ll make teens and adults alike think about their actions and place in the world.
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