While the network television season is over and all the “superhero” shows are on hiatus, it’s good to know that cable tv and streaming services are there to fill the need for comic book based television series. Season 2 of Powers is now on the Playstation Network. AMC is airing it’s take on Preacher. And debuting last week on Cinemax and HBO Canada comes Outcast.
From the minds of writer Robert Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta, Outcast is the story of Kyle Barnes, a man who’s been plagued by demons all his life. And by demons, I mean actual demons who have possessed loved ones, relatives and even strangers that have been near him. He needs answers on why this is happening and has teamed up with Reverend Anderson, an evangelist minister that believes he’s a weapon in God’s war against evil on Earth, to find them. Unfortunately, what they find might not just change his fate but also bring about the end of the world. The comic series has been out for a couple of years now and is yet another hit for Kirkman (he’s also the creator of a little property known as The Walking Dead. Heard of it?), so it’s only natural that this would get the television treatment. But would the dark nature and mature subject matter of the graphic comic translate well to the small screen? So far so good.
The first of 10 episodes aired last Friday and immediately showed an authenticity to the comic not seen on television before. Unlike Preacher, which took the characters and overall premise of the source material but changed the actual stories, Outcast follows the opening issue almost to the letter. There are moments during the show where you can pause the program and line it up to actual panels from the comic series. The events of the story are in near correct order as well. This attention to detail continues through the next few episodes. There are a few changes here and there but the series generally keeps with the timeline set in the graphic novels. Fans of the Image title will be happy to see the respect being shown to the source material. This may have something to do with the immediate involvement of Kirkman as one of the exec producers. That always helps. Thankfully, the continuity of the series is not the only thing the tv show is nailing. The performances are bang on as well.
The character of Kyle Barnes is a tough nut to crack. He’s a loner and most of his struggle is internal (except at the points where lashes out). It’s a character that conveys more in a look than in anything he might say. Patrick Fugit captures the demeanor and gravitas of Kyle from scene 1. He’s got the look down with a lingering sadness and confusion ever present behind his eyes. His dialogue is delivered with a slight uncertainty (again, except when he lashes out) and there is a general unease that permeates off the character. Kyle’s the hero of the story but there’s something about him that makes the viewer not fully trust him. Those are usually the most interesting protagonists and Fugit is bringing a solid performance on this front. The role of Reverend Anderson, played by Philip Glenister, is another story altogether. Anderson is “fire and brimstone” one minute and questioning his own faith the next. So far, we’ve seen a bit of that “fire and brimstone” and Glenister has played it up well. It will be interesting to see how he handles the subtler beats of the character when they arise. Wrenn Schmidt who plays Kyle’s foster sister, Megan, and David Denman who plays Megan’s husband, Mark, also give strong performances, doing what they can with characters that are given more than the necessary amount of exposition. Subtly is a bit lacking in this adaptation.
In the comic book, a great deal was conveyed with just a look or some well placed images in panel succession. It was a slow burn with the reader gleaning facts about the characters without it being spelled out. Here, there are a number of times where unnecessary exposition has been added to speed up the reveal. At some points, this makes the story feel a bit dumbed down from it’s comic book counterpart. I realize exposition is more common in television then any other medium but it felt a bit blatant at times with a few characters reiterating facts to one another as if they’ve never discussed it before. While it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the episode, it did make a few scenes feel a bit stilted. Thankfully, the performances by Fugit and the supporting cast and the strength of the overall story greatly overshadow this faux pas.
As the show airs on Cinemax and HBO Canada, it’s safe to say that the gruesome imagery of the comic is still intact. The kid chomping away at his own finger? That’s kicks off the first episode and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. While not horrendous, there are a few bloody parts so the faint of heart might want to avoid it. As for the for the rest of us, more blood and gore and demonic possession await! The second episode of Outcast airs tonight. Be sure to catch it if you dare.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!