Today’s post is about Robert Kirkman and ‘s Outcast! If you’re squeamish about blood or if the long-time question of God’s abandonment bores you, then this isn’t a series for you. But if you’re into the idea of God working in mysterious ways and rural angst, Outcast more than delivers.
Plot: Kyle Barnes, a man who loses most of his loved ones to demonic possession despite his touch repulsing demons, and Reverend Anderson exorcise demons from good town folk and creep closer and closer to the inner workings of the Devil.
Initial thoughts: With only nine issues released as of this May 2015 and an upcoming tv show on the horizon, I urge anybody who loves exorcism action to get on this series. Besides splendid writing and artwork by the main team, the colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser are quite stellar in setting the mood for this gritty take on rural folk taking on the Devil while doubting the merits of God. Simple, sleek, and sharp, the art and the story appeal to long-time fans of Kirkman’s the Walking Dead and the horror genre as well as newcomers who want a fresh take on an old trope. It can definitely be an old trope, but the series follows through on an important question: what happens to somebody after an exorcism? The comics follows a number of relationships and struggles, showing how past traumas and possessions impact the present. The latest issue, #8, certainly leaves off on a creepy note that will have you doubting every face you encounter on the street.
My only complaint is that each issue is quite self-contained. Naturally, every issue pushes the main plot forward and leaves a question for the next issue, but I don’t feel quite as on edge as Saga, for example. The series gives off a more quiet, sinister feel that makes you reevaluate the story constantly rather than shooting off big fireworks.
Itty Bitty Research: So today is a fun day: demonic possession. Who doesn’t want to look up contemporary demonic possessions? Whether from the ridiculous to the horrific, demonic possession has interested lots of folks since – well, it’s cliche to say the start of time, but – the start of time. It remains a topic of interest today, perhaps because it allows people to explain the unexplained. In fact, you can take a course on exorcism in Italy and last year demonic possessions were described as at ’emergency levels.’ While it’s thought of a thing of the past, demonic possession and exorcism are alive and thriving all around the world.
Given that Outcast follows the journey of a Reverend, I decided to start with Biblical definitions of demon possession. Funny enough, demonic possession is primarily a New Testament phenomenon. There’s not much in the Old Testament to suggest demonic possession, though there are clearly demonic presences and deeds. (Food for thought for further research: what cases exist of contemporary Jewish or Muslim demonic possession?) Overlooking the analysis of demon possession in favor of a collection of passages from the Bible referring to demonic possession, this page shows how demonic possession is associated with muteness, blindness, personality changes, and other traits not typically associated with demonic possession in mainstream media. While Outcast hasn’t dealt with this explicitly, it is interesting that it features a multitude of possibilities when it comes to demonic possession: we have an abusive mother, a murderous friend, a silent old lady, and children simply acting bizarre. It’s quite refreshing compared to the tales of people crawling up walls or bending their backs in unnatural ways.
There are differences between Catholic and denominational Christian exorcisms, mainly being that Catholic exorcisms have a stricter structure and hierarchy to the exorcism, such as getting permission from a Bishop to perform an exorcism. Obviously Outcast chooses not to follow a Catholic Reverend in order to bypass a lot of this humdrum, but it’s still an interesting concept of who gets to decide who to exorcise and when. Kyle and the good Reverend certainly argue about this more than once, so it’s a cool thing that Kirkman and Azaceta address it. Outcast has an important place in exorcist fiction because it shows a more mundane approach to exorcism, both in who is doing the exorcising and how the exorcising is being done. Without the coughing of blood during the exorcisms, the exorcisms in Outcast are pretty everyday, only requiring a blessed cross, some holy water, and the power of prayer.
One thing I learned about exorcism is that it covers everything from the supernatural to the mundane. Something as simple as a baptism is a kind of exorcism. I’m excited to see how Kirkman and Azaceta will address exorcism, now that we know the regular kind of exorcism isn’t working on some folks.
Works cited: Kirkman, Robert, writer. Outcast v1. Art by Paul Azaceta. Colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2015. Print.