My time reviewing for HorrorTalk.com has given me the excuse I was looking for to get into comics. Yesterday I stopped by my local comic book store and picked up a few horror trades that seemed promising. The first, Outcast, is written by Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead fame. I’ve never actually read the WD comic, but I’ve watched the show enough to have a certain built-in respect for the brand, as it were. And there’s definitely something familiar here: Outcast is stark and grim, and (so far) more about the human actors than the supernatural forces they encounter.
Outcast vol. 1 collects the first six issues of the series, which follows a man named Kyle who apparently has the power to exorcise demons. Oh right, there are demons. Kyle has a dark past: his mother and wife both suffered from demonic possession. He’s also been accused of beating his wife and young daughter, though the details of the alleged domestic violence aren’t clear at the outset. Now Kyle lives alone, except for the repeated visits of his sister Megan, whose grocery deliveries and constant nagging are probably the only things keeping him alive. When a local child is possessed, the town’s exorcist-in-residence recruits Kyle to help cast out the demon. Kyle reluctantly agrees, and the exorcism reveals aspects of Kyle’s power, and past, that shake him out of his funk and encourage him to discover the truth of his own situation.
Kirkman’s writing is very good, particularly on a narrative level–by which I mean that the story itself, the un-narrated narrative, is compelling. The dialogue is generally good too, though there are a few moments that feel forced (including one where a character I’m pretty sure is Satan actually recites that old line about how he has SO MANY NAMES because he’s Da Devil lolz).
Paul Azaceta’s art fits this story well: dark, but not gritty in the way that so many contemporary comics are; and somehow simplistic and detailed at the same time. I especially love the cover of this first trade, which doesn’t contain any explicitly “horror” elements but still communicates very clearly that this is not a pleasant tale.
Comics move differently than other media, and even in a trade paperback it takes a while for a narrative to get going. That said, Outcast is off to a respectable start. At this early stage things still feel a bit superficial, but I suspect that time will change that as the characters become more fully developed and the stakes of the conflict are made clear. The precise mechanism by which Kyle exorcizes demons–he feeds the afflicted his own blood–is pretty unique, and I have a feeling that down the road we’ll learn that all the stuff we think we understand about the demons is completely wrong (they’ve hinted at that already).
In all, Outcast is worth checking out. I’m certainly going to pick up the next volume of the trade–once my bank account has had time to recover from my last trip to the comic shop.