A strong first issue is important when launching a new series; you need to grab the reader’s attention right off the bat and make them want to come around for more. But almost as important is that second chapter, where you show the reader that the level of quality can be maintained (if not grown) beyond that first segment, that the promise of the opening will continue to move forward. Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s “Outcast” #2 does just that; as we learn more about demonic possession and Kyle’s past, the story becomes that much richer and fuller.
You’ll appreciate, for instance, the expansion into Kyle’s back story. The arrival of Donnie does a lot this issue; it talks about what it was like for Kyle to grow up, tells us more about his family, and also gets him in the same room with his brother-in-law for the two of them to have a conversation. It’s that last part that Kirkman really nails here; it’s only three pages long, but Mark and Kyle’s drink and chat says so much about their relationship, the barriers that are forever raised between them, and the sad sort of regret. You see where each is coming from, and it’s clearly not something that will be easily solved.
But for me, even more powerful than the story this month was Azaceta’s art. His art was great in the first issue — I’ve been a fan ever since “Potter’s Field” — but this issue looks even better. I love his usage of the inset panel to create a visual pause on the page. Look, for example, at the bottom of page 4 and the top of page 5. Drawn as just two panels, the sermon shifts directly from one sentence to the next, moving onwards without any pauses. But add that inset into the mix, and the preacher’s stopping and raising a finger serves as a brief rest; it’s a silent image, one that serves as an empty beat before moving onto the next page. It’s a sharp usage of sequential art, one that works in no small part because of the design; I love how the character looks right at you, with just that hint of a smile as his finger is raised, as if telling the reader, “Now just you wait.” It’s an arresting image, and one that works very differently than the one on the next page. There, with the mysterious man appearing an inset, it’s not so much a pause as a stumbling block. The sermon breaks on either side of that inset, and Azaceta uses it to bring across that discomfort. It’s a strong storytelling technique that Azaceta has clearly mastered.
Storytelling aside, this book just looks great. Azaceta’s characters are beautifully drawn, and his work with Elizabeth Breitweiser results in pages that look almost like paintings from artists like John Van Fleet. It’s a strong and subtle color palette on the drawings, and everything from bits of trash to the tip of a hat is carefully rendered with soft, gentle inks that bring a softness to the page.
I’m really pleased with “Outcast” #2; this series feels well on its way to a strong run. Those who read the first issue and liked it are in for a real treat. And if you haven’t tried out “Outcast” yet, scoop up both issues and sit down and read them back to back. Your biggest complaint will probably be having to wait for issue #3. Kirkman and Azaceta make demonic possession look good.