Important Note Dept: As you can probably guess, I’ve been a bit busy with Real Life(TM) this summer, and while I’ve been productive at many things, I sure as hell have not been productive at blogging—I’ve been reading at a glacial pace, which caused my writing to lag as well since I need to, y’know, read things before I can review them. Rather than disappoint everyone with silence, instead I’ll just post reviews of things most of you don’t care about: graphic novel reviews and art posts! I have a bunch of short graphic novel reviews stockpiled on Goodreads and elsewhere, and some half-completed art posts I can finish up. What a time to be alive!
Kyle Barnes lives in abject squalor and misery, ever since his family left him over charges of domestic abuse, all the more shocking since as a child Kyle was physically abused by his mother. Only his adopted sister Megan even interacts with him any more, trying to drag him out of his house and into society; her husband–a sheriff–eyes Kyle with disgust. The truth behind all this abuse is a bit harder to take: Kyle has been surrounded by demonic possession all his life, and he fought against his possessed family much as he fought against his possessed mother as a child. When the local town preacher urges him to assist in the exorcism of a possessed boy, Kyle is forced to confront his past, and he starts to unearth his own dark secrets–including some he didn’t even know he had.
Kirkman, of The Walking Dead fame, takes a similar-but-different approach to another of the horror genre’s hoary tropes, demonic possession. Kirkman continues to establish his style of realistic characters put in dark, miserable situations, and while it’s not as oppressive as TWD, there’s also no certainty of who’s possessed and who isn’t. Southern Gothic in autumn is the perfect place for a battle between old-time religion and demonic power, and the moody atmosphere works wonders–especially when paired with the art, another Image comic with a bold color palette. It’s full of brooding grays and shadowed purples and sunset oranges, and it uses color and contrast to depict layers of darkness and light–heavy chiaroscuro effects, sometimes in dark noir tones, other times with a backdrop of vibrant reds or oranges.
Excellent and atmospheric art, strong characterization, great execution of a unique idea. So what’s wrong with it? Well, the average comic’s six-issue story arc is usually a contained narrative, maybe equal to a season of a TV show, while volume one of Outcast isn’t so much the season as it is the pilot. There’s a lot of set-up here, and some character introduction and development, but looking back I can’t say the plot moved very far along. I enjoy slow-paced character development over adhering to the six-issue plot, but this was a bit much even for me. Kirkman is revving the engine, putting pedal to the metal, listening to the motor rev up for an intense and wild ride… but the car has yet to leave the driveway. With the TV show in the works, I’m not too concerned about the series resolving some of its plot elements, but this volume needed a firmer sense that progress was made.
Outcast’s first volume sets the tone for future installments, a promising introduction to a series that will hopefully continue to develop alongside its TV show adaptation. While I’m a bit bummed about the lack of real plot developments in this volume, I also think Kirkman was smart to keep things character-driven and to establish the characters and setting before shaking things up with big reveals. The pacing is still fluid, the atmosphere nice and moody, and I really dig the shadowy art style. I’m expecting volume 2 to accomplish a bit more in terms of plot [ed note: uhhh, hold that thought], but I eagerly look forward to reading it.
Do I recommend this/will I continue reading it?: Yes, I’ve already bought/read volumes two and three, and will continue to buy future volumes as they’re released.
Recommended for fans of: American Horror Story, American Vampire, Nailbiter, Baltimore, Harrow Country, zombie-free horror in general, the Outcast tv show.
Not recommended for readers who: dislike incredibly slow-burn stories where you aren’t sure if it’s going anywhere but damn is the atmosphere impressive; are squeamish; who don’t like content with religions/blasphemous themes.
Title: Outcast, Vol. 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him
Author: Robert Kirkman
Illustrator: Paul Azaceta
First Published: 2015
What I Read: Image Comics, 2015
Price I Paid: $5.32 (Kindle/Comixology sale)
MSRP: $9.99 tpb / $7.99 ebook
ISBN/ASIN: 1632152770 / B015XE1ECK