With “Invincible” and “The Walking Dead” no longer with us, the chances of me winding up with two Robert Kirkman-written books on my shelf to review is going to be an increasingly rare occurrence. It’ll become even more so when one of the series I’m writing about here wraps up with its next volume. So with that in mind, let’s talk about how the latest volumes of “Outcast” and “Oblivion Song” have turned out.
In the case of the former, it’s still sticking to it’s slow-burn game plan. “Outcast vol. 7: The Darkness Grows” is the penultimate volume of the series and you’d figure that if Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta were going to to finally kick the action into high gear then they’d have done it here. That’s not really the case as vol. 7 has the same feel and urgency of the six volumes that have preceded it. This is in spite of the fact there are a few developments here that could qualify as game-changing. We’ve got the arrival of Angelica -- the leader of the demons, more Outcasts arriving in town, a potential traitor within the ranks of Kyle’s group, and the reveal that his daughter has a much bigger role to play in this story than previously thought.
The problem with these is that only the last one feels like it’s going to have a big impact on the story itself, and even then it’s kind of an out-of-left field development. While the traitor and other Outcasts wind up feeling like standard additions to the plot, Angelica’s arrival arguably hurts the series. After Rowland Tusk’s marvelous debut in the previous volume, he and his boss butt heads regarding their agenda and compete for space amongst the series’ crowded cast. Angelica may have the more striking Tilda Swinton-inspired design, but Tusk’s charisma and personal struggles still make him the more interesting character.
As for Kyle and his band of barricaded friends and followers, things carry on as they have been. This is in spite of the fact that they’re now in the middle of a siege by the police. While they’ve got enough supplies to last for a while, the real threat is the demons that keep popping up… and are quickly taken care of by our protagonist. There’s not really much to add here, until the end when what looks like a moment of crisis turns out to be something more. Something better, even. It does get me a little amped to see how the creators are going to wrap things up in vol. 8 -- but only a little.
Meanwhile, “Oblivion Song vol. 3” does a better job of taking its story to the next level. After telling a reasonably complete story about scientist Nathan Cole and his efforts to redeem himself, we get to find out what else the strange dimension known as Oblivion holds. Three years after Nathan was taken into custody after admitting to having caused the Transference -- the event that sent hundreds of thousands of people to Oblivion -- the government has formally started exploring the dimension. It’s a solidly-funded operation they’ve got going, but things hit a wall once they encounter the Faceless Men. If that sounds bad for this group of trained professionals, just imagine what it’s going to be like for Nathan’s brother, Ed, and the community of civilians he’s the leader of.
I don’t think it’s giving much away to say that Nathan winds up becoming a free man again early on in the story. Neither would it be to say that he finds himself in the thick of the drama surrounding Oblivion as well. What did surprise me was the positivity surrounding his return to these things and how Kirkman tries to find new challenges to overcome rather than rehash old ones. It also helps that the threat of the Faceless Men is a genuinely interesting one. They’ve got a great creepy design from artist Lorenzo De Felici, and they don’t come off as being overtly antagonistic. We get that in a hammy villainous turn from a former bit player who is now much more important to the overall plot. That misstep aside, I liked this return to Oblivion as its new story is making it hard for me to guess where it’s going next. Which is a good thing.