OUTCAST, Image Comics/Skybound

Anybody out there who knows anything about the current landscape of comic books should know the name Robert Kirkman. Besides creating and writing THE WALKING DEAD for who knows how many years now, Kirkman is responsible for one of the greatest Super-Hero comics of all time in the form of INVINCIBLE. Sure he has written a lot more than those 2 books (SUPER DINOSAUR anyone!?), but damn they are defining titles that have really stood out making my weekly visits to the comic book shop all the better. So when I heard Kirkman was up to something new, I immediately slapped it on my nerd-radar and have kept tabs on it for a little over a year now. As I sit here today, there have been 3 issues released, and let me tell you, I am just as impressed by OUTCAST as I am with THE WALKING DEAD and INVINCIBLE if I were to go off first impressions alone.

OUTCAST tells the tale of  Kyle Barnes, a man who has been haunted and tortured by demonic possesion for as long as he can remember. We get hints here and there unshrouding his tragic childhood, but most the story takes place in his ‘adult’ years as he struggles to unveil what these supernatural possessions mean and how he can stop them. In true Kirkman style, it’s the characters that populate the pages of this book that really make it shine, only complimented by the demons and the horror of it all. A horror-epic if you will. When we first meet Kyle, we are immediately asking questions about his history, his motives, and his current condition. As we learn about him and his past, we are introduced to a menagerie of supporting characters in the form of a self-questioning reverend, a tough-as-nails sister-in-law and her intimidating cop husband, others who are potentially cursed by similar demonic possessions themselves, and a variety of other people (some with ties to Kyle’s past) who all populate a seemingly peaceful (on the surface) West Virginia town. To say this town and these characters are an onion waiting to be peeled layer after layer is an understatement. There is so much mystery in the air with this book that it makes the pacing silky smooth as we learn about new relationships, past events, and meet new characters. Every page I turned had me more intregued to discover what was next. It’s pretty gripping stuff with a healthy balance of characterazation, horror, and mystery creating a truly familiar felling yet unique experience for readers. It tastes a little like THE EXORCIST, has hints of HELLBLAZER, but still somehow feels wholly refreshing and new.

To compliment things further, the artwork here by Paul Azaceta is just perfect for this book. It’s seemingly simplistic on the surface or ‘at-a-glance’, but as you read and look at all the little details Azaceta puts into his characters and world, you will begin to appreciate all the complexity. This is most evident in the facial expressions the characters wear. It amazes me how much emotion and energy Azaceta can put into a face with a minimal amount of lines. And not just for our lead characters, but everyone in the periphery as well. Whether it’s Kyle’s anguish as he remembers his past, the reverend’s stoic and curious gaze, or even an onlookers grudging disapproval for two guys resorting to fisticuffs in a parking lot. It’s all so very rich and rewarding to see and is heightened by the beautiful color work by Elizabeth Breitweiser and lettering by Rus Wooton. The artistic talents behind OUTCAST is, simply put, a home run on all fronts…some may even argue a grand slam!? I daresay it’s THAT good my friends!

Sure we are only 3 issues deep at this point but damn is it a fine 3 issues thus far. I’m sold! OUTCAST just made my comic book store “pull-list” and will sit atop my “must-reccomend” list for a long time to come. I am confident that the level of polish and quality on display with these introductory issues will only continue as the mysterious story of Kyle Barnes unfolds. I’m happy to be along for the ride and simply can’t wait to see what Kirkman and Azaceta have in store for us next!

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10

Issues #1-3 are on store shelves now with Issue #4 due in September 2014.