Written by: Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by: Paul Azaceta
Colored by: Elizabeth Breitweizer
Published by: Image Comics
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Robert Kirkman has pretty much conquered the media landscape within the last several years with his excellent zombie comic series The Walking Dead. What many people who only know Kirkman for The Walking Dead TV show may not realize is that he’s also worked on several other comic projects throughout the years. Many of these haven’t exploded into the social consciousness as largely as The Walking Dead has. Some of those “smaller” projects have turned into TV shows but haven’t had the raging success that Kirkman’s undead denizens have. That doesn’t mean that those projects don’t deserve just as much attention and AMC’s flagship title gets. One of these comic book projects is the fantastically compelling Outcast.
This time around Kirkman is tackling demons instead of zombies and in Outcast he crafts a tale that is as creepy and commanding of readers’ attention as anything in his zombie series. Outcast isn’t as epic or sprawling a tale as many of Kirkman’s other projects. In this comic the prolific Image partner works on a smaller canvass. Instead of focusing on superheroic alien invasions or the downfall of society, in Outcast Kirkman works through the trauma that one individual has suffered and the repercussions it has had throughout his life. In Outcast the protagonist is an individual who has been haunted and hounded by demons who have possessed those closest to him over the years and caused irreparable emotional damage to everyone in his family. For some reason, not necessarily revealed in this particular volume, the lead character has become a focus for demonic activity. The people nearest to him become magnets for possession or he finds himself drawn to situations where people have become possessed. The only benefit of his being a magnet for malevolent spirits is that he is somehow also perfectly suited for fighting the very menace that he attracts. His touch causes the possessed to suffer pain, his blood is toxic to the infested, and when things inevitably become violent in the course of an exorcism it is his acts of violence that are the only ones that can drive the beasts from the bodies they inhabit. As a result, the demonic creatures know him and when he appears they fearfully recognize him by calling him Outcast.
Kirkman tells a woeful tale in the pages of Outcast. It would be easy to read the summary of the plot for Outcast and mistake it for the story of a balls to the wall hardened demon slayer. Outcast is most certainly not that kind of horror story. It depicts the life of a man very much in over his head whose existence has been tainted by one tragedy after another. This book is a decidedly dark tale of a man very nearly succumbing to not only metaphysical demons but his own internal demons that have forced him to live a life in solitude. Outcast is a the story of a man trying to pick up the pieces of shattered life without possibly knowing what it is that destroyed it in the first place. It’s dark, and it’s brooding, and it’s a perfect read for a crisp, chilly, October night.
Kirkman’s character construction and dialogue are excellent. The story flows and reveals itself in an organic and natural way as the layers of the story reveal themselves. Outcast is obviously inspired by classic horror cinema such as The Excorcist and less memorable horror movies such as The Conjuring but it takes the demon possession angle and turns it on its head and makes it its own. The writing is first-rate but the even larger draw of Outcast is its artist and colorist. Paul Azaceta’s artistry in Outcast is outstanding. The brushwork in this comic is breathtaking and Azaceta is a master with darks and lights on the page. His style is very reminiscent of Duncan Fedrego but is a bit cleaner and more restrained. Azaceta’s stark and energetic pages are perfectly balanced by Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors. Together, Azateca and Breitweiser’s work makes Outcast a striking read. The look of the book evokes the creeping terror of every great horror movie you’ve ever seen.
With Outcast Robert Kirkman has created another entertaining horror series filled with interesting characters. The writing and the art in this book are terrific and as soon as I finished this first volume I went online and ordered the second and the third. I enjoyed it that much. If you’re looking for a good old fashioned creepy Halloween read Outcast would be one of my top recommendations for a comic that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.