In a seeming attempt to prove the age-old saying that not only “can lightening strike twice in the same place”, but that it can also be bottled, comes Image Comics/SkyBound Entertainment’s highly anticipated collaboration from the “The Walking Dead’s” Robert Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta.
In Outcast: A Darkness Surrounds Him, Kirkman weaves terror not through the external threat of zombies, but through the psychologically unnerving and existential subject of demonic possession. In basing his latest foray on demonic possession, Kirkman may have done his homework and in fact found the perfect venue to continue his largely successful and addictive ride.
“Over one half (63 percent to be exact) of young
Americans 18-29 years old now believe in the notion that
invisible, non-corporal entities called ‘demons’ can take
partial or total control of human beings, revealed an
October 2012 Public Policy Polling survey that also
showed this belief isn’t declining among American
population generally; it’s growing.”i In addition, the
recent spate of success in such television hits as A&E’s
“Paranormal State” and the big screen’s “Paranormal
Activity” series all but guarantee that there is money to be made on the topic which is why Cinemax is slated to subsequently push Outcast into production based on concept and Kirkman’s previous success.ii
I initially reviewed Outcast on my iPad through Comixology. I am admittedly a “Walking Dead” fan and pushing all of my preconceived expectations and bias’ aside was pleasantly surprised by both Kirkman’s writing and Azaceta’s depictions. Much like Sheriff Rick Grimes situation in the opening volley of “The Walking Dead”, Kirkman plied his penchant for character development through crisis by thrusting us headlong into the tormented world of West Virginia native Kyle Barnes. In Barnes we find a man haunted (literally) by a troubled, past which has left him vulnerable to interpersonal relationships which have subsequently left him isolated and “outcast” from society. Without disclosing too much of the storyline (because I do not wish to play spoiler here and highly recommend you read Outcast), I found myself drawn into the isolation and depression surrounding the Barnes and the myriad of reasons for his torment. In addition, Kirkman masterfully uses rural hometown settings to pull the reader into the story, accentuate believability and cause the reader to better empathize and bond with the characters. Let us suffice in saying that by the end of the issue; we are left anxious, wanting to better understand all that Barnes has been through and the ongoing challenges that await him.
Artistically, I especially enjoyed how the team of Kirkman, Azaceta and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser aptly served not to individually overpower one another, but work in unison to add clarity to the work as a whole. In addition to storyline, Paul Azaceta’s rough hewn style and use of sub-panels served to convey the darkness of the subject matter while coaxing me onward. In particular, his use of silhouette, symbolization and lack of extreme detail insure that the reader moves through the story at a pace complimentary to Kirkman’s writing style. I initially felt the use of contrast and color was overly dark, so I sought out the comic in hard copy to see if the problem was strictly digital in nature. Much to my surprise and pleasure, I found the hard copy much more colorful, and appreciated it even more. Breitweiser did a wonderful job lending color to Azaceta’s depictions by utilizing a basic subdued color palette to convey the same level of simplicity. Her efforts provided a warm sepia toned quality that made me feel as if I was watching rather than reading the storyline. Based on both experiences, I highly recommend purchasing the 44-page hardcopy so that the reader can truly appreciate the hard work of these talented artists.
All told, my initial opinion of Outcast was better than I recall my reaction to Issue 1 of “The Walking Dead”. I highly recommend it and I like most fans, will anxiously be awaiting Issue 2 in two short weeks.
…Prepare yourselves my friends, IT is upon us…