A review of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast, vol 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him
New horror series from The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman!
Kyle Barnes has been plagued by demonic possession all his life and now he needs answers. Unfortunately, what he uncovers along the way could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it.
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First, a little known fact about me: even though I don’t enjoy horror or any scary films, I really love occult/demon-lore films (while simultaneously being terrified of it despite my otherwise very rational instincts and not being religious in any way). I’m not talking about stupid Hollywood horror flicks that deal in sudden noises and flashing images to make you jump…Nor am I talking about *too scary for my chicken pants* Exorcist deals. I mean good old (often cheesy) human vs the devil stories that carefully walk the line of rich ancient myth and contemporary life. My list of guilty pleasure movies that successfully achieve this includes: Dogma, End of Days, The Craft, Constantine, Hocus Pocus… For similar reasons I have also enjoyed the films Van Helsing and The Brothers Grimm.
Those films are all pretty cheesy and probably all have terrible ratings…And I completely agree with those ratings (except for The Craft; that was genuinely good). But I think it’s so fun to see the different rules that demons (or other creatures) must abide by, their motives, their abilities, and the solutions to banishing, entrapping or destroying them. So, naturally, when I read the first half of the first sentence of the blurb for Outcast—”Kyle Barnes has been plagued by demonic possession all his life“—I was intrigued.
SO, my biases aside, I was really impressed by this graphic novel. The art is great—realistic but also brooding and a little rough, effectively using brush-like lines with ambient colour—and the story is intriguing.
Overall, it feels like a quiet story with big things stirring in the background. It’s a little like a demon-centric X-files in some ways: a mysterious suited character getting up to mysterious shenanigans, overarching secret plots, and strange small-town happenings that stretch out and connect deeper than you think. But instead of the famous skeptical and superstitious police investigator duo, we get the perhaps unlikely team of Kyle, with his secret troubled past, and the (not completely unwavering) local pastor who play the roles of skeptical and superstitious respectively.
From the beginning, the way the story unfolds creates more questions than answers, which I tend to really like in a first volume! Some answers are inferred as the story progresses. Hints are dropped about events in the past – not just through flashbacks (which I appreciate are used sparingly and effectively) – but also through clues in the things people say. But nothing feels overly explained in this series introduction. I hope the mystery element is taken forward in future volumes without dragging the intrigue out so as to become uninteresting.*
*After all, this is by the creator of The Walking Dead: the series that seems to have no end…and I like my series to eventually end (preferably before things get ridonc).
Demon stories are often best told when the demons are enigmatic, largely unseen and when there is doubt as to their existence in the first place despite strange happenings and changed people.. But there is also a good balance between the mystery of the dark religious creatures, a healthy dose of angsty agnosticism and cool skepticism, and just enough evidence points to the only answer being demons!
This was a great first volume and I’m really looking forward to finding out more about the world, the ways these demons work (Are they all the same? They don’t seem so.) and what the demons want.
publisher: Image Comics
source: Net Galley
date read: 28 February 2015
recommend for: fans of The Last Exorcism, fans of X-files, fans of horror comics
pros: perfect ambience created by great art and scripting
cons: might be too quiet/slow for some