by: S. Scott Stanikmas
Writer Robert Kirkman might be typecast as “the horror guy” after his many series at Image Comics, but the man does it so well that there’s no negative connotation to it. After conquering the zombie genre with the hugely popular The Walking Dead and taking on a government assassin with a supernatural twist in Haunt, the scribe decided for his next project to tackle the issue of demonic possession with artist Paul Azaceta in Outcast.
The story centers around a young man named Kyle Barnes who, over the course of the first few issues, we learn has first-hand experience with possession – having been possessed followed by having his demon exorcised. But the forces of evil are still holding sway over his life, whether it was by taking over his mother and leaving her in a catatonic state or by subduing his wife and making him almost kill her in front of their daughter. No matter what, the dark side has been right by Kyle’s side. He feels burdened with that, living a life of solitude in his childhood home haunted by the demons of his past. But a chance for redemption comes in the form of local priest Reverend Anderson (one of the few people who will actually associate with Kyle by choice), who calls upon the young man to help him with what he believes to be a case of possession.
Kyle is now entering a world that he thought he knew but is wholly unprepared for. He soon learns that demonic possession is all around him, affecting people without being obvious. He also learns that he has power over the demons that live inside these humans. The entities call him “Outcast” and flee their vessels at his touch (or at the very least experience a great deal of pain and become very agitated).
This could be seen as a blessing or a curse though. Just as Kyle saves one young boy and sets him right he turns another child catatonic, leaving her as dead to the world as his mother. Add onto this the fact that the Devil (or one of his higher ranking servants) is living within a stone’s throw of Kyle and regularly visiting the demonically afflicted in the area. He’s also been tormenting Reverand Anderson, carving him with filthy sigils and making him doubt his faith for not having made any real change with his work, but Kyle is seemingly blind to this for the time being.
Kirkman has said that he has a very set plan for this series and he knows exactly where he wants it to end up, which is great. Stories that have a clear path tend to have a better narrative flow, as the storytellers know they want to get from Point A to Point Z and have to hit certain plot points in between. And RK’s writing style is great, adding emotion to every character. Kyle’s voice is full of frustration as he tries to figure out what he is and Reverend Anderson’s grief over his failure to save his flock is palpable.
The art provided by Paul Azaceta is ethereal. It isn’t a super defined style, like Greg Capullo or Todd McFarlane, but it conveys all the emotion you need. One standout scene from a recent issue comes to mind: While gassing up the car after a long road trip with the good reverend (and a particularly difficult exorcism that left the aforementioned young girl in a coma), Kyle stops and takes a look around to see everyone staring at him. Azaceta pulls each face into their own mini box, giving each onlooker their own close-up but still being vague enough that you can’t tell possessed from regular human, making this one giant creepy guessing game. It’s a very moody two-page spread that sticks with you.
With an order for a TV series from Showtime that will be based on the comic, Outcast is turning out to be one hell of a ride (pardon the pun). With only a years worth of issues out so far it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up with this story on a long, lazy weekend afternoon. Kirkman and Azaceta have definitely taken hold of me as a reader…and I’m not looking to exorcise this comic from my pull list anytime soon.