Twp things stood out about the cover for the first issue of They’re Not Like Us to me. One if the almost Geoff Darrow-esque art on the nicely designed cover and the other is the title From Despair to Where, which as any old Manic Street Preachers fan like myself can state, is a lyric from one of their songs on the fairly average album Gold Against the Soul.
The Manics have been on rare form this year, with a storming set of festival performances (including one at Glastonbury on a very muddy Saturday evening) and a set of gigs performing one of the best albums of all time, The Holy Bible, in it’s entirely. So what is a Manics title doing on an American comic book as the band never really got any sort of fame at all over there? The writer Eric Stephenson seems to have a more than passing knowledge of music according to interviews, but is it really apt to have a socialist anthem from a working class art-punk/rock band on what is essentially an American superhero comic? The short answer is yes, it does.
The dialogue feels right for what is at first sight, an angsty comic about a young girl who is on the verge of killing herself, but is tried to be talked out of it by a mysterious figure and after that it turns into a fast-paced comic where the reader is wondering who this girl is, and just how she’s able to still be alive after we see her leaping off a tall building.
Syd (not her real name, but the one given to her), our main protagonist, realises she’s in a group of super-powered people and that she herself is a telepath and is introduced to a number of others that also share strange abilities (I especially love Misery Kid who is an empath that can inflict, well, misery upon people) and they all live together in a stange old house.
Syd isn’t especially happy to have her name taken from her, or indeed, be told she’s has to stay with these people or that she’s actually got super powers, but The Voice (the mysterious man who saved her at the start of the issue) explains further.
They’re Not Like Us could be something quite special. The writing by Stephenson is very good, is somewhat too full of exposition (this is of course an opening issue but still…) which means there’s far too many scenes of people standing around talking to each other, but the art by Simon Gane makes what is at times a dull script, always worth looking at. There’s a potential on display here that I hope develops quickly because too much exposition can ruin a comic as after all, this is a comic, not a film script.
I do however like the sense of alienation from Syd here, which is something of course many teenagers suffer from and it was something the Manics themselves wrote about a lot, which is why I suppose the issue rounds out with a quote from Richey Edwards and the Manics from the song Motown Junk.
21 years of living, and nothing means anything to me
This first issue sets up a mood. It isn’t perfect, but it’s very, very promising, especially if they continue drawing from informed acts like the Manic Street Preachers for inspiration.
One other thing, the symbol in the title’s logo reminds me of the old British Rail logo…