Outcast #1 Review

By: Rob Neil Gruszecki

Kyle Barnes has had to face a grim and unfathomable reality his whole life. Being exposed to demonic possession and experiencing first hand the true horror that exists within us has left him deflated, dejected and on the fringes of society. When a case crops up in his hometown that shares similarities with his past experiences, a priest, after failed attempts at exorcism, enlists the help of Kyle in hopes that a child’s life can be saved. What unravels is a dark vendetta these monsters have against Kyle that he’ll need to get to the bottom of if his future and his loved ones want to stand a chance against the forces of evil.

From the creator of the Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman and the artist from Graveyard of Empires, Paul Azaceta, comes a highly anticipated new series at Image comics about exorcism, demons, possession and torment. Outcast is a horror story that delves deep into the psyche of a man driven mad by evil and his family’s dark fate that could be linked simply to his presence. In 44 pages of ad free glory, Kirkman’s new horror vehicle goes down dark paths of mystery in one of the best value comics this year.

The visuals of Outcast are unsettling and at times even brilliant. Paul Azaceta has an excellent handle on horror beats and crafts some panels that are sure to give nightmares. A sequence in particular where a young boy named Joshua is taken over by a demon on his bed and his body begins to contort just slightly is an image that will stay with you long after putting the book down. Paul Azaceta really carries the frightening aspects of the book very well and his work is perfectly suited to this kind of thriller.

Full, beautiful colour from Elizabeth Breitweiser (Velvet, Fatale, Winter Soldier) really help tell the story in Outcast and deserve specific note. Often times throughout the issue we will be given glimpses of the past and peeks into the cause of most of Kyle Barnes’ misery but these sequences, squeezed in between panels subtly, are only put into context by her shading and shift in colour pallet. I think without this feature Outcast would have required a few reads just to make sure the continuity was straight and that the full impact of what we were seeing wasn’t merely breezed over. Breitweiser’s contribution to the first issue of Outcast may actually be the highlight as her work is dynamic, dreary and incredibly expressive, capturing the emotion of each panel and lighting it up like a demented mood ring.

Robert Kirkman’s plotting and scripting ability is put to good use in a story like this as this genre is certainly his wheelhouse and he has a gift for building a massive, constantly expanding universe around the tragedy of one man. We get to see a lot of this man, Kyle Barnes, in this massive first issue. Most of it is shrouded in mystery and merely revealed in flashbacks but what we can gather is that his life is miserable and every waking moment is agony for him. His mother faced possession that he witnessed as a child, as did his wife whom he had to beat in order to release the demon thus saving his daughter’s life as she is attacked. Constantly pursued by these demons, Kyle wanders through this first issue defeated and depressed (understandably). He even responds with icy disdain towards his sister, the only person in the book who expresses any genuine concern for him which makes him a little frustrating but ultimately it makes sense in context. Kirkman’s first issue lays a lot of foreshadowing and groundwork for future issues that are all effective in making you very curious as to what is actually going on.

The first issue of Outcast includes so much content (even an eye-roll inducing backup letter from Kirkman about the reality of demonic possession…) that it is impossible to turn down. $2.99 for creepy, masterfully executed visuals, stellar colour work that really aids in the storytelling and a scary tale from one of the most successful storytellers in suspense and horror.

Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior

Follow him on Twitter @Ghost_Factory

Listen to his music Ghostfactory.Bandcamp.com or the Weekly Comics Round-Up Podcast www.Geekstampede.com