Robert Kirkman might be the master of comic book tête–à–tête. The guy has one helluva knack for creating intimate, realistic conversations between two characters as they discuss what seems to be the most important thing in their world at that very moment. It’s a device wielded so proficiently in Kirkman’s Outcast Vol. 3: This Little Light. It gives a great deal of gravity to what would otherwise be just another silly horror comic. This is nothing new for the man. He’s been deploying this technique for over a decade in The Walking Dead (with varying degrees of success), but his work on Outcast feels more refined and might be the most mature writing he’s ever produced.
I want you try a little experiment: Pick up a random issue of Uncanny X-Men or Action Comics and read the dialogue aloud with a friend. Seems silly, right? Now repeat this process with a random issue of Outcast. Feels a little more natural, doesn’t it? That’s because all the pontificating in this comic feels incredibly grounded even when it’s about dark forces and demons plaguing their dilemma. There’s a naturalistic element to the conversations, one that not many comics (superhero, horror, or otherwise) seem to handle as well.
While the dialogue in the previous two volumes of Outcast are just as solid as they are in “This Little Light,” the real champion here is the plotting. For the first time in this series, things are starting to coalesce. The bigger picture Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta have been hinting at is starting to bleed onto the page.
This volume picks up with our heroes, Kyle Barnes & Reverend Anderson, trying desperately to free Kyle’s sister, Megan, of an evil spirit/demon/who-the-hell-knows-what-it-really-is, and in typical Kirkman fashion, things are not going great. In fact, they pretty much suck. The craziness then quickly accelerates and never really lets off the gas until the gut-wrenching, cliffhanger ending (another hallmark of Kirkman’s storytelling).
The six issues presented in this trade covered more ground than the twelve that preceded them, but the comic doesn’t feel rushed. If anything Outcast has found its rhythm. It marches to the beat of a steady war drum, one that has deep enough lulls to make you catch your breath and wonder what’s going to be thrown at you next.
Another thing this comic has going for it is its gritty artwork. Stylistically speaking, Paul Azaceta’s work lives somewhere between Sean Phillips and Alex Maleev, and I mean that as a huge compliment because that’s great company to be in. His heavy contrast inks highlight his sketchy layouts to obscure some of the horror occurring on the page and lets your imagination take the wheel. But when things need to get messy, boy he has no scruples about shoving sinew in your face (also a compliment).
The focused nature of this comic is pretty indicative that the creative team has an ending in mind for Outcast. Unlike The Walking Dead, this series would rather focus on a small group of characters and keep them interacting with one another in a single setting. This breathes life into the environment, and it’s something that more horror comics should do. There’s no need to take Kyle Barnes and Co. on the road. After all, the devil is already at their door.
Outcast Vol 3: This Little Light is a stellar collection. The horror, drama, and family connections all feel so very real. Kirkman and Azaceta are on the top of their game here.Although it may be too early to tell, I have an inclination they’ll stick the landing. If you aren’t caught up on this series, now’s the time do so.
- Focused story
- Great artwork with some truly creepy moments
- The world of this comic is opening up without having to travel anywhere
- The cliffhanger ending felt a little contrived, but not enough to completely ruin my reading experience