Loner Kyle Barnes lives in self-imposed isolation in a small town where everyone knows everything about each other, including the horrific acts that transpired in Kyle’s home years ago. What the town doesn’t know about are the demonic possessions that have plagued Kyle since childhood and have prevented him from moving forward. With the help of Reverend Anderson, Kyle will uncover the truth behind his otherworldly abilities and why demons have haunted him and his family his entire life.
Better known for his work on The Walking Dead series, author Robert Kirkman dives into a new realm of horror that tackles demonic possession and its direct relation to the idea of good versus evil. The slower pace allows readers the chance to get to know the characters, world, and storyline better. Kyle’s life and relationships are all affected by his ties to demonic possession, so it is important for the story’s progression that the reader have some background information, rather than rushing through everything to get to the action-packed scenes; the reader’s interest would quickly fizzle out otherwise. Thus, the build-up to the climax is more gradual, and Kirkman hooks his reader at the precise moment the story takes a critical turn.
That is not to say nothing exciting ever happens in Outcast. Right off the bat, the graphic novel opens with a child plagued by a mysterious illness which leaves his mouth dripping with blood. No one knows what this means, but it grips readers immediately and forces us to continue on to find out what is happening. As the story unfolds, we begin to piece together how the events happening in the town and Kyle’s history are intricately tied to one another, in a way that may have far worse repercussions than anyone could have anticipated. The dark and somber tone Kirkman utilizes throughout Outcast is fitting, as it accurately reflects the events unfolding and helps drive the theme even further. Kyle’s life is consumed by darkness, and Kirkman beautifully captures that in the atmosphere he creates.
Further elevating Outcast is Paul Azaceta’s art. Azaceta seamlessly captures the darkness and danger surrounding Outcast, which helps bring it to life. There is a lot of tension and anger present in nearly all of the characters, and Azaceta is able to capture that in the characters’ body language and interactions with one another. His line work is reflective of the emotions felt by the characters in each scene, while the dark hues are symbolic of the overarching theme of the graphic novel. Similarly, Azaceta utilizes small focus boxes within larger panels to draw readers into moments of greater impact or significance, without taking them too far away from the scene at hand. The detail in which he draws his characters and their surroundings enhances the reading experience. Together with colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser and letterer Rus Wooton, Kirkman’s vision is brought to life.
However, few issues did arise in the art. At times, scenes are disjointed and do not transition as smoothly as they should. Likewise, flashbacks are woven into the present time, which can be confusing and take the reader out of the scene, rather than further into it. Some flashback sequences are cast in darker, muted tones, which helps somewhat but does not distinguish them enough since the main story’s art is also dark. Even with its few missteps, though, Outcast is still brilliantly written and illustrated, which will come to no surprise to fans of Kirkman.
Outcast is most appropriate for older audiences due to the brutality of some scenes, which includes content such as demonic skin carvings and bloody killings. These scenes do help move the plot along and are significant to it, but it is not a likely title for a school collection. It is, however, a great choice for an adult graphic novel collection, showcasing Kirkman’s strengths as a horror writer.
Outcast, Volume 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him
by Robert Kirkman
Art by Paul Azaceta
Image Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Mature