The previous volume left off in a way that suggested big things were going to happen here. Kyle Barnes had been captured by Sidney and his crew of possessed humans and was completely at their mercy regarding their plans for the Great Merge. Those of you (myself included) expecting this to be a climax point after the events of the previous three volumes are going to feel a little disappointed here because what follows is… lots of talking. You see, now that Sidney has the upper hand, he decides to lay out his best case as to why Kyle should join his side. Our protagonist is not having any of that, and fortunately for him Reverend Anderson is hot on his trail. There’s some fighting, a fire, escape, a chance for Kyle to perform another exorcism and add someone to their team, and a moment where Sidney has the tables turned on him. Of course, with someone as devious and cunning as Sidney, can having him at your mercy even be a good thing?
There’s no denying that “Outcast” does the slow burn well. Robert Kirkman builds character and tension well through his dialogue while also parsing out information necessary to the larger plot at the same time. If nothing else, we do get a better handle on Kyle’s abilities, the nature of these demons, and what the Great Merge is in this volume. Paul Azaceta also layers on menacing style throughout the volume, creating an uneasy atmosphere where the nightmares are all walking around with human faces. The problem is that “Outcast” feels like it’s all about the slow burn after four volumes. Twenty-four issues in and I’m still waiting for the creators to kick things into high gear and take it to the next level. Now, that might happen in the next volume as we leave off on a shocking moment of violence that leaves one of the main cast quite dead if appearances are to be believed. There’s no way said death won’t create some shockwaves, the least of which being what it means for the killer. Who, I might add, has had one of the more interesting arcs in this series so far. While I’m not about to recommend this to people who aren’t part of Kirkman’s fanbase, it’s still possible that I could wind up doing so in the future.