The Outcast at home

Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s Outcast is about Kyle Barnes, a young man dubbed outcast by the demons in his life.

Kyle’s whole life is defined by all the women in his life getting fridged, a term used to describe women in media being murdered for sheer plot advancement purposes—his mother and his wife are the main victims of such tropes.

Besides all the white characters and fridging of the few women, Outcast makes for an enthralling read. The premise is nothing new: demons possess folks in a small town, and Kyle’s partner in crime is a reverend.

But just because the premise is a little worn doesn’t mean it isn’t good, it just means that a lot of people have liked it and still like it. And what’s not to like about a miserable man who makes demons scream just by touching them?

Personally, I’m anticipating the demons figuring out a way around the touch-aversion with a scene à la Voldemort’s “I can touch you now.”

Even if the premise was boring, it’s used in a novel and really important way. The whole first volume plays well as a metaphor for abuse, especially child abuse and abuse caused by mental illness in the abuser.

Kyle himself is an adult survivor of child abuse. His mother was possessed by a demon, I suspect, because he’s the outcast which seems to be a euphemism for chosen one. And while I’m not an adult survivor of physical childhood abuse, I didn’t get the impression that the way Kyle’s situation was treated was disrespectful in any way.

His mother was loving, and Kyle has distinct memories of her drawing with him and playing tag outside. But he also remembers when everything suddenly changed, when his mother was suddenly different.

Suddenly she was cruel out of nowhere and vicious until he fought back. He beat her so bad that not only did the demon flee her body, but she was left catatonic in a hospital bed. In one scene he visits her and the two talk. “Were you a victim too?” he asks her.

She can’t answer, of course.

Demonic possession isn’t just a fitting metaphor, but historically one with quite some unfortunate context. The metaphor is so important, though.

Kyle’s not only left without closure since his mother is completely incapable of communication, but now that he’s an adult he can realize that her abuse didn’t spring out of nowhere and that she’s a victim too.

Her victimhood never cancels out his or excuses the abuse. She even puts him into an overfull foster home where he and his foster sister are further abused by another kid. Sibling abuse is even less frequently addressed and isn’t often treated like the abuse it is.

The whole book is littered with various scenes of children being beaten by adults, all in the name of demonic possession.

For all that, Outcast is pretty spectacular. How often is there an adult child abuse survivor in comics? It’s impressive that such a serious problem is treated like the multi-faceted horror it truly is.

The small town politics are pretty spot on, too. Police officers turn blind eyes on a kid with a busted-up face because he’s friends with the reverend who was alone with him. It’s a face he got from an exorcism, but the police officers don’t know that.

If it’s not too triggering, Outcast is worth a read even if just for the mystery that envelopes the small-town people appearing and disappearing in the nearby woods.