And so we arrive at issues 13-18 of Walking Dead supremo Robert Kirkman’s latest comic to get the smallscreen treatment, Outcast. For the uninitiated, Outcast concerns a young man called Kyle Barnes who is estranged from his wife and daughter (his wife believes that Kyle beat their daughter, we and Kyle know that it was in fact his wife who beat their daughter when she was possessed by a demon) and is increasingly drawn up in a satanic entanglement in a small American town. He is helped (and sometimes hindered) in this by the Reverend Anderson, a local clergyman (played by Life on Mars’ Philip Glennister in the TV show), and the interplay between the two allows Kirkman to ruminate on God and faith in a way that proves compelling.
Kirkman’s experience on the Walking Dead show very much informs the way that the comic progresses, with both issue/episode arcs and hints at larger arcs to come (as seen in the fact that the first episode of the TV show mentions ‘the great merge’, which hasn’t made it’s way into the comics… well, until now). Which isn’t to say that Kirkman is as manipulative a writer as someone like, say, Mark Millar, and more to say that there are conventions here that are being followed (such as, for example, that hoary old horror movie trope that no-one really questions the outlandish and everyone accepts some pretty far out shit as if to say, well, what else could it be?). Kyle wants answers (when he and the priest do exorcisms, the demons always refer to Kyle as “outcast” and he’s keen to learn what they mean) and the priest wants to do his godly duty, which involves the pair of them doing battle with demons that refuse to leave the bodies of those Anderson had already exorcised and demons who are new to their respective human vessels.
Which is where volume 3 comes in, because faithful readers will know that we left our two weary heroes at the end of the second trade paperback on the cusp of trying to rescue Kyle’s sister, and this collection opens with that set-to. Kirkman and Azaceta have a problem – in that exorcisms always seem to happen in bedrooms and so you have the danger of diminishing returns eventually – but they overcome this hurdle with a messy and disastrous confrontation that results in injury and mayhem. Volume 3 also moves the story on significantly in terms of Kyle and his wife. But the most interesting element of volume 3 has to be the sense we’ve had – of a number of demonic sorts in Kyle’s town plotting behind his back – properly coalescing, to the degree that it is starting to feel like we are watching a latter day Ira Levin style comic strip. There are a good few bad people in the world of Outcast and they are all up to some mighty bad stuff (although we don’t quite know what yet – which is probably why we will continue reading for a mite longer yet).
Any Cop?: Outcast remains a comic that shows promise. We have issues with it, sure (Kirkman could learn a lot from Stephen King), but at the moment the pro’s outweigh the cons and the climax of this collection is such that we genuinely can’t wait to see what happens next…