Skybound (Image Comics)
$2.99 (48 pgs )
w. Robert Kirkman
a. Paul Azaceta
4 out of 5 Space Monkeys
Kirkman proves he’s not a one-hit horror wonder with the release of Outcasts #1 this month from Image Comics. I was one of the stupid few, who took a look at Walking Dead #1 on the shelf, said “hmmm black and white zombie stuff ” and just put it right back on the shelf. Kiss that $1000 bucks goodbye.
So I wasn’t gonna miss this one, and although impressed with Walking Dead when I finally got to read my girlfriend’s trades, I wasn’t a big fan of Invincible or the stuff he did at Marvel. I also liked what I saw from Azaceta, from his Marvel Noir work and issues of Amazing Spiderman, and always hoped to see him on something big. The preview stuff I saw looked great, and when I finally got to read it, I was rocked!
Kirkman takes on possession in his latest foray into horror comics, and does it as only he can. Engaging dialogue, intense pacing, realistic settings and clever flashbacks are all present and accounted for; and all spectacularly rendered by Azaceta. His characters look like average everyday real people, which only enhances Kirkman’s script and his capturing of everyday life in the homey West Virginia town, and stands in stark contrast to fantastic pieces of horror he suddenly stabs your eyes with. Ans as much as Azaceta brings Kirkman’s story to life with his art, Elizabeth Breitweiser brings Azaceta’s art to a varied spectrum of moody life. Her use of color, expressing everything from flashbacks, to dark rooms bathe in blues, to depressing greys of the lead characters living conditions,to splashes of red,and artful uses of blacks for the more horrifying scenes. Breitweiser is a boon to this book and a big part of its overall success.
Outcast opens innocuously enough, a slice of modern family life in rural West Virginia. As mother and daughter argue over the daughter dating an older boy, the woman’s son busies himself in another room. After a lot of shouting and door slamming, the daughter makes an exit and the Mother turns her attention to her son, and what he is eating before bed…. his own fingers! The scene shifts to Reverend Anderson, a Reverend who seems to be losing his faith in the church, explaining this to his fellow poker players in the churches backroom. He is approached by the woman above, Betsy Austin who tells the Reverend she believes her son Joshua is possessed and needs his help.
It’s at this point we meet the main character of the story Kyle Barnes, who’s sleep is interrupted by a persistent knocking at his front door. As he rises and to answer, walking through pies of unwashed clothes, furniture in disarray and a general filth to his house, Kyle experiences a flashback to his childhood, being chased in the dark by his demon-possessed mother.
When he finally answers the door it’s his sister Meg, who showed up to check up on the reclusive Kyle. Disgusted by the empty food containers, the obvious roach problem, and worried about her brother’s intestinal health by the state of his fridge as well as his overall hygiene, Meg bullies Kyle into going to the grocery store and getting some “real food”. ( It’s here where you see Kirkman’s real strength in dialogue, I don’t know if he has sister, but he got that obnoxious know it all nag thing down perfect, and I should know, I have 2 sisters! ) It’s on this brother/sister family therapy road trip that we learn of Kyle’s estrangement from his wife and kid, and his return to their childhood home. It also leads to a chance encounter with Reverend Anderson.
Anderson knows Kyle from his boyhood, when Kyle’s mother seemed to be possessed by a demon. The Reverend was unable to help, but something Kyle did, but refuses to talk about drove the demon from his mother and saved his life. The Reverend now wants Kyle’s help with Joshua Austin, whose condition is worsening, and the demon is getting a stronger grasp on the boy’s soul. Kyle says he doesn’t want to get involved, and is backed up by Meg, but takes the boys information from Reverend Anderson anyway. After a brief stop at his sister’s place, where Kyle is definitely not welcomed by his brother-in-law, Kyle decides to walk home alone, but not before we learn that Kyle hurt his daughter someway, and this led to his estrangement from his wife and self-imposed exile.
After some soul-searching, and an attempted restraining order violation, Kyle, haunted by his past, has a change of heart and heads to the Austin home to help Rev. Anderson with his exorcist. At first teasing the demon-possessed child as a faker and attention seeker, the scene gets more personal and violent, when the demon inside the boy recognizes Kyle,naming him the Outcast, and makes allusions to his wife and child.
Convince of the possession Kyle and the Reverend go full bar exorcist on Joshua. Kyle begins to remember things he did to save his mother and when he is bitten by the boy, Kyle’s true power is revealed. Able to drive the demon from the boy’s soul (I won’t tell you the cool Kirkman-esque twist that let’s him do this, get the book yourself!), Kyle reveals the truth about what happened between himself and his wife and daughter to the Reverend, and the two decide to go on the hunt to find out why this demon has taken such an interest in Kyle Barnes’ life!
Kirkman and Azaceta cram a lot into this double sized blockbuster first issue (and still only $2.99, my wallet thanks you) and it’s all damn good. A sweet set-up with a good impetus that could keep it going and keep it interesting for a long time, or they could wrap it up smoothly in a matter of issues. This is definitely the start of something cool and creepy!
And if you happen to be in New York City Wednesday July 30th, between 6 and 8 PM, you can come down to my Local Comic Shop: Royal Collectibles in Forest Hills, Queens ( http://royalcomicsnyc.com/upcoming-events/ ) and meet the artist of Outcast; Paul Azaceta, who will be signing comics ( Outcast #2 is coming out the same day! ) along side Khary Randolph, artist of TechJacket! Come on down and give these guys the attention they deserve!