Image Comics INFIDEL #1 Is A Socially Relevant Horror Premiere
Listen, if you don't know about Image Comics, you're doing comics wrong. Chances are, though, even if you're the most casual of comic book readers that you have at least heard of the company or read something from them. We're talking about the company that houses the powerhouse The Walking Dead. The best thing about Image, however, is that they are a company that fuels the independent comic release market. Every creator owns their comic and they are all about pushing boundaries, progressive and social commentary, they're a bold and daring company. It makes it easy to hold themselves to that standard when they're publishing books like Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell's Infidel.
It's the first issue so we're getting a lot of exposition here but Pichetshote and Campbell waste no time in also dropping the reader into some truly dread inducing imagery. While we find out eventually that we are following the story of Aisha, a young Muslim women who is a new stepmom living in a new apartment, that's not how the comic starts. Instead we start with some monologue detailing a dream that is reminiscent of the fluid storytelling of Stephen King. Aisha is in bed, with muted browns and black, with a nonsensical purple pattern chaotically dancing across her terrified face. A strange sinewy creature, with abnormal limbs, drawn completely in sketch form, has cuddled up next to her before biting down on her face. Then, she wakes up.
It's a tense moment. Welcome to Infidel, things are only getting started.
Pichetshote has a knack for concise storytelling, as we are introduced to a handful of main characters in the story but never feel bogged down or overloaded. Aisha is Muslim, but her husband Tom and stepdaughter Kris are not. They're living with Tom's mother, Leslie, and we are also introduced to her best friend (who is strangely not named in the issue.) Throughout the issue we are given a pretty clear picture of the state of the world that Aisha is living in. The building she's staying in was bombed and because the bomber looked up ISIS at some point and time, the tenants and neighborhood have become toxically Islamaphobic. Through some flashbacks and clever design, we also discover that Leslie is ignorantly racist as well, with her son Tom insisting that she is to not be trusted.
Aisha has been having strange dreams that are getting worse and worse and finally one night she realizes she can't wake up. After a few truly effective jump scares, Aisha comes face to face will a melting, deformed monstrosity who is drooling slurs at her. While the scares tangibly exist, it's perhaps the intangible horror that Pichetshote so deftly weaves into the story that is true horror. The untrusted looks Aisha receives from neighbors, the frightened looks Leslie gives to an African American commuter, the enraged diatribes of social pundits on television. These are the most frighteningly poignant terrors that Infidel offers. It's an absolutely intriguing premise and the promise of this amalgamation of culturally relevant horrors and horrifying supernatural entities makes Infidel an enticing read. It may be to early to call, but Pichetshote may be doing for comics what Jordan Peele has done for films by forcing us to face a contemporary issue head on.
Aaron Campbell and Jose Villarrubia may be one of the most dynamic duos in comics right now, just from this one issue. Campbell has already mastered the art of introducing these abnormal images into everyday reality and combined with the colors from Villarrubia, it's a surreal nightmare. Campbell's art is reminiscent of comic horror mastermind Steve Niles while his creatures bring to mind the work of Jock on genre treat Wytches.
Infidel is out now and it's one of the most interesting horror comics, and just comics in general, to premiere in a long time. This is an absolute must read.