Review: Boy Abducted by Aliens Returns (Accent UK)

With it’s lengthy title, Boy Abducted By Aliens Returns is part of Accent UK’s Blessed/Cursed series, that also included Whatever Happened to The Worlds Fastest Man, Has Kane Mesmer Lost HIs Magic Touch and more. Writer Dave West teams up with Trujillo artist Gustavo Vargas for a story which sees a young boy disappear in mysterious circumstances, but was he really abducted by extra terrestrials, or is something else going on? This is his story.

Publisher: Accent UK
Writer: Dave West
Artist: Gustavo Vargas
Price: Launching at Portsmouth Comic Con

Peter Thompson is your average high school kid – struggling to find himself, bullied by the cool kids and lusting after an unobtainable girl – but one day he finds out he has extraordinary powers. When he accidentally uses his brother’s toothbrush he physically transforms into his sibling. However, unlike most comic book movies or films where this would then lead onto a series of body swap antics and misadventures, Dave West takes the journey on a darker and more foreboding direction.

After the inevitable experiments to try and get used to his powers (which include finding out that only contact with another male activates them), Peter makes an unexpected transformation when out on a night out with bad boy Jamie that will cause him to disappear from his regular life.

We will leave the plot details there at this point, as the twist that covers the remainder of the story is a major one. Suffice to say, it is this moment which leads to the assumption that he has been abducted by aliens, but also sees Peter go down and dark and bizarre path for the remainder of the story.

Boy Abducted By Aliens Returns feels very similar in tone to Accent UK’s excellent Whatever Happened to The World’s Fastest Man?. In other words, it takes a fantastical concept but gives it a very grounded and kitchen sink approach. In Boy Abducted By Aliens Returns, powers are explored in secret and away from the glare of the limelight. And the story looks at it from the personal viewpoint of the person going through it, rather than from those observing it. The whole story is told from Peter’s point of view and so we don’t see the effects it has on his family. However as with Whatever Happened To The Worlds Fastest Man, this is a nice counter point to what we expect this story to do. In fact both almost cover up the fantastical nature of the powers in order to make them into something we can understand rationally, rather than embrace the fantastical in the way that we are used to with classic superhero stories.

It’s a really interesting concept, which take familiar ideas of body swap and superpowers, but gives it a really dark and strange angle. It could be read as an allegory for living with mental illness with Peter trapped in a spiral he cannot escape. As well as the secretive and private nature of his powers being seen as a classic teen allegory of growing up.

It’s not always the easiest of reads and feels a bit disjointed by the way it’s concepts link together. As with other books in their Blessed/Cursed series Accent UK use a newspaper style headline for the title and cover of their books. This is usually one of their strong points and really helps the book stand out, but in this case the title and cover don’t really marry up with the story which is inside. It took a couple of reads for us to really get our heads around what was going on, as the big reveal about Peter’s family believing he was abducted by aliens only really surfaces at the end, and while reading the story you are left wondering where the aliens will appear.

The artwork is provided by Trujilo’s Gustavo Vargas and it’s great to see his work on such a different world. It has a really classic, almost 70s 2000 AD feel to it, with strong line work and great composition. It does have a slightly chaotic feel to it in places, but as with Trujillo that is part of the charm of Gustavo’s work. Although it feels a little restrained here, compared to Trujilo, L1MA or even Ciccadian Rhythms, when it works it gives the pages an energy and vibrancy. This works brilliantly for the darker elements such as the transformation scenes and some of the more horrific pages at the end, however for some of the more basic domestic scenes it could perhaps do with being a bit more polished. It would also be interesting to see how this would look with some subtle or stylised colourings as it doesn’t quite feel right being a dedicated black and white book and could do with a little something extra to really lift the artwork.

Despite some misgivings, this is a poignant and thought provoking read and another really interesting title from Accent UK. Often elements of a book which we see as problematic, are Dave West trying to push our conceptions of what a comic should be and pushing us outside our comfort zone, and for that we applaud him. And he could not have picked a better artist than Gustavo for this project. While this book may not work as well as some of the others in Blessed/Cursed series it is still a title that is very much worth checking out as it will definitely give you something to think about once it’s over!