Image Comics owned 2014. They had dozens of new series, mini-series, and ongoing titles that are at the very top of the Best of Lists that pop up around the internet this time of year. Unfortunately, not all of Image Comics’ new releases this year were home runs. They’re Not Like Us #1 was one of those titles that didn’t quite hit the ball out of the park, but it certainly didn’t strike out either. While there’s some interesting elements incorporated into this ish, awkward introductions, a weird pacing, and a strange tone of evilness leave a lot to be desired in this first issue, but seeds have been planted that could potentially grow to be trees bearing a very tasty fruit. (NOTE: There will be spoilers!)
They’re Not Like Us is an odd tale of a group of individuals with different telepathic powers. Telepaths, empaths, pyrokinetics, etc., are all established within this first issue’s pages, and the potential for super-powered greatness is quite evident and immensely hopeful. The ish opens on a girl attempting suicide due to the voices in her head, who is intercepted by a man in a suit who tries to stop her. He doesn’t, she falls, but wakes in the hospital, the voices in her head quieted, with the suited man entering yet again, claiming responsibility for the fix, and persuading the girl to “escape” the hospital. They escape, head to the remote mansion presumably owned by the suited man, and he introduces her to a cabal of super-powered people. I’ve read parallels made to the X-Men that are definitely warranted, but the overall tone of evil that comes with this group of special people taking and doing whatever they desire “because they can” definitely leans more toward Magneto than Professor X, but the last panel reveal that our main character will now have to kill her family to ensure the group’s secrecy is something not even Magneto resorted to. There’s an edge to this series that writer Eric Stephenson is pushing toward ‘bleeding’ territory, and the potential for this series is very high. Artist Simon Gane’s pencil work is unique, detailed, and spot-on beautiful, with color work from the great Jordie Bellaire being the cherry on top of this feast for the eyes. They’re Not Like Us #1 missed the mark in some important areas, leaving a lot to be desired.
There’s a whole lot of “What the hell?” going on in this issue that has nothing to do with the actual plot or characters. Our main character ends up in the hospital after attempting suicide by jumping from the roof of a hospital, with the guy who eventually recruits her to this psychic-powered cabal NOT rescuing her before she leaped, not talking to her prior to her walking upstairs to leap, not ‘fixing’ her uncontrollable telepathy that relentlessly assaulted her with other peoples’ thoughts, and only decided to do ANY of this after it would require fighting their way out of the hospital. And who has to fight their way out of a hospital? I would understand if this suicidal patient was being forced to stay for observation, but there were no handcuffs keeping her safe in her hospital bed, and not a lot of interest in her escape. That, of course, could be chalked up to the use of yet-to-be-understood psychic powers, but the altercations that DID occur seemed to point to that not being the case. Additionally, the introduction of the psychic cabal of evil-doers was out-of-place and forced, and seemed to be pushing the idea that this cabal is some sort of evil super-group, without actually establishing any other connection besides the fact that all the members have powers; a shallow connection, if even a viable connection at all.
Like I said, there’s a ton of potential in They’re Not Like Us #1 but this single issue confuses quite a bit more than it entertains. The pacing is way off, and there are instances that are completely confusing. Yes, there is a certain X-Men quality that could be associated here, but that association is quickly lost by the reveal of the ultimately evil backdrop. While at its heart, X-Men is about overcoming our differences to find unity and equality. They’re Not Like Us is taking the low road, showcasing a group of extraordinary people taking advantage of a society that couldn’t possibly understand or stop them from doing whatever it is that they want to do. But this isn’t all bad, because this ish does establish some compelling potential within the superhero genre, and there’s certainly room on comic book shelves for a no holds barred team of selfish psychic super-powered badasses who take what they want whenever they want it. It’s a mixed bag on the writing, but the art alone is almost worth the cover price.