Friday, 27 June 2014

Outcast #1 Review (Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta)

Having successfully tackled zombies, Robert Kirkman’s new archetypal horror series is: The (Southern) Exorcist.

Kyle is a troubled man with a troubled past. His mother was troubled – or possessed – and he’s now divorced with his wife taking his troubled kid from him. Now, another troubled kid is possessed and the troubled local priest can’t help – will troubled Kyle rise out of his funk and defeat the demon? Troubled people = compelling characters, apparently.

Robert Kirkman does not write great first books. The Walking Dead, Invincible - both titles’ first books were average at best, and it took multiple volumes for me to warm to The Walking Dead. Divvy up those volumes into single issues and we’re talking literally dozens of comics before the titles took off.

So it is with Outcast #1, which is at best an average comic and a pretty weak opening gambit. Kirkman’s written a lot of comics but he’s not actually a great comics writer. Kyle’s very uninteresting main character: a dull, clich├ęd mess of a divorcee who spends his time feeling sorry for himself, sobbing and sleeping. Even when he rises to the challenge of the exorcism, he still comes across as an ordinary, boring guy. Kirkman’s trying to make him into a Southern Constantine but Kyle appears to be nowhere near as brilliant a hero.

Kirkman doesn’t do anything with the exorcist angle either. What do you expect from an exorcism story? That’s what you get here. Kid possessed with demon, tied to bed, hurts parents, grins evilly and lashes out with extraordinary strength once the exorcists show up, oh so scary, exorcist does whatever, demon leaves, blah blah blah. There’s nothing original here - it’s the exorcist story template through and through.

It doesn’t help that Kirkman’s dialogue is as clunky as ever, like when Kyle’s sister shows up and addresses him as “big brother” thus telling us that they’re related. Because I know when I see my brother, I always address him as “little brother”, rather than his name, to establish our relationship to anyone around us who wants to know. Subtlety!

I do like that the first issue is double-sized but they’ve still kept the price point to $2.99, so it’s very good value for money, and the nod to The Walking Dead on the second page where the kid’s eating his fingers was nicely done (at least it felt like a nod to TWD). And Paul Azaceta’s art is pretty good – there are no problems with the story proper and some panels stand out like the scenic shots of West Virginia. Also, unlike The Walking Dead, Outcast is coloured rather than black and white.

But I have to say, Outcast #1 didn’t do much for me. As much as Kirkman crams into this first issue, I’m not that interested in the story or the characters, and I’m not at all excited for the second issue, or the series as a whole. It’s not a poorly put-together comic, it’s just not for me – perhaps if you’ve been waiting for an exorcist comic, you might get more out of it. Maybe it’ll get good by the fifth volume (ie. some 25 issues in)?

Outcast #1

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