"Outcast: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Paul Azaceta
2014, 150 Pages
Trade Paperback released on Januarty 28th, 2015
Kyle Barnes is haunted. He'd prefer to crawl up in a little ball and let the world and everyone in it forget about him forever, but he's not that lucky. His sister Megan keeps pulling him out into the sunlight and civilization. Kyle has had a rough life. His mother was possessed when he was young, causing her to do horrible things to him as a boy. The demons followed him as an adult and affected his wife and daughter. The cops think he beat them, but they don't know the truth. In fact, Kyle isn't so sure he knows it himself.
Outcast by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta is a dark comic. It's one that carries a lot of weight. You can feel Kyle's past bearing down on him, bringing him deeper into the shadows and away from society. He's all but given up in life. That's when Reverend Anderson finds him. The holy man needs help with some exorcisms that have been plaguing the area. He can only do so much and Kyle seems to have a gift for dealing with the supernatural. He's branded the outcast by the demons and his touch hurts them.
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The relationship between Kyle and Reverend Anderson is a hesitant one. Kyle is slow to trust the man. Hell, he's slow to trust everyone that's not his sister after the crappy life he's had. He wants answers though, and he thinks the Reverend can help him find them. Once the two of them start talking, there's this sliver of hope that comes out in Kyle. If he can figure these things out, maybe that will allow him to rekindle his relationship with his estranged wife and daughter.
The story is a slow burn. The first six issues are collected in this trade paperback and they only cover a few days in the life of Kyle Barnes. It wasn't until I finished the book that I realized how far he had come in that short amount of time. For him to go out on exorcisms with the Reverend and even think of possible ways to improve the overall process is a big step for him. Most importantly, he's confronting his past head on and realizing that it wasn't his fault as he was originally led to believe. He suffered through some awful things at the hands of his mother, but it wasn't her in there. It was something evil that was feeding on all that pain and anguish.
Of course, all this progress can't be met without conflict. There's a dark force moving in the shadows around Kyle. It's hiding in plain sight and he just doesn't see it yet. Kirkman has a talent for writing in layers and Outcast is no different. He can introduce a character or a minor plot point and have it pay off months or even years later, serving as a big reward for long time readers. There are a number of elements shown in these pages that aren't fully resolved. Instead, they're left as dangling threads for Kirkman to weave together later when needed. The force of evil is a big one.
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Outcast has a very small town look and feel to it brought on by Azaceta's artwork. This could be taking place in any podunk place in America. You'd blink and miss it if you were driving by. What really makes Outcast special is the little moments. Azaceta adds these little panels that provide a closeup of a specific detail in many scenes. These work great and I honestly don't know why more artists don't use them. It highlights something you might have missed, shows a shot from a different angle, or provides an emphasis on a certain part of the scene. This works especially well for character reactions.
Azaceta also provided some dynamite covers for this book. They have a noir look to them, filled with darkness and dread, like evil is just creeping in along the edges of the image. What is interesting is the level of blood that tends to appear on the covers. Sometimes it's subtle, showing up on a character's hands. Other times it's brutal, flying every which way as characters beat the living crap out of each other.
Outcast is a comic that will grow on you. It moves in quietly, slowly pulling you in to Kyle Barnes' rough corner of the world. This makes the action scenes stand out as sudden and shocking. This is the kind of horror that creeps up on you, sending a shiver down your spine instead of jumping out and scaring the bejesus out of you. It's no surprise that it is already being developed for television.