Outliers Review

By | Tuesday, July 02, 2013 Leave a Comment
I've been seeing a decent amount of stuff coming from Alternative Comics lately. I'm not sure if they're actually publishing more, or I just happen to be seeing them more, or what, but they've been putting out some decent books worth taking a look at. Erik T. Johnson's Outliers is oen of the latest among them.

The story starts at the end of school, as we find one of the buses has broken down and kids are getting shuffled around. Jespers is forced onto the dreaded short bus, where he picks a fight with Tsu, the silent and "strange" one. Their fight, and a speeding car in the huge storm, wind up sending the bus off the road. Tsu finally speaks something incomprehensible and an 18-foot tall hairy beast lifts the damaaged bus to place it back on the road. At home that evening, Tsu is confronted by a money-like witness who demands more information about the creature, followed soon by the police investigating the crash. Tsu remains utterly silent until, after packing a backpack and grabbing his skateboard, he mutters some more incomprehensible language. The beast shows up at his window, where Tsu climbs onto its shoulder and the two wander off into the darkness.

Between the Bigfoot/Swamp Thing style look of the beast, and cover full of more beasties hidden underneath the dust jacket, there would appear to be a fairly standard cryptozoological theme to the book. The concern with that is that we've seen quite a few of them over the years, and it's hard to pull off the spectacle of the creature who no one believes exist. It's just been done too often. "Oh, look, it's a Chupacabra and it's all mysterious and nobody knows who's killing the goats. Ooo, spooky-scary."

But what makes Outliers interesting, though, is that the big question mark is NOT the beas that we see, but rather the main character of Tsu. The beast plays a part in that, sure, and we don't know much about it, but it's the fact that Tsu remains consciously (it would seem) mute. The mystery is more in what Tsu's story is. He seems like a standard broody teen with normal parents who don't understand him, there's enough odd and different about him that makes the reader want to figure out what's going on here.

Johnson smartly introduces Tsu through his classmates first, and then briefly through his parents. Having no dialogue of his own, it would be difficult to otherwise provide a way for readers to empathize with him. We see that he's not just having a bad day, but he has a bad day every day. And the more I think about it, the more I realize how smarly written it is. My interest is definitely piqued and I'm really interested to see Chapter Two.

Chapter One retails for $5.00 and is available online here. Johnson posted a six-page excerpt here.
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