Alien in the Outfield is a new all-ages title from Jack RB Kirby and Mat Barnett. It follows the story of lonely teen Joel Horovitz, who finds himself bullied and excluded by his middle-school classmates. In an attempt to help him make friends, his mother signs him up for a local little league baseball team, and – well – you’ll just have to read the comic yourself to find out what happens next (although the title may provide a pretty significant hint).
The story is framed nicely by having an adult Joel reminiscing about his baseball exploits to his tearful daughter who is on the verge of quitting her own baseball team, a device which works well and gives a solid explanation for Joel’s ongoing narration of the story.
This is a fun, light-hearted read, borrowing a lot of familiar movie tropes from the likes of E.T., The Goonies, etc. We have the seemingly harmless, crash-landed alien being hunted by a menacing (though not too menacing, obviously) government organisation, the collection of misfit losers trying to come together as a team, and the innocent sense of humour that younger readers will most definitely appreciate.
The artwork, provided by Mat Barnett, is fairly basic, it has to be said. However, his characters and their emotions are well realised, and the story flows smoothly from one panel to another. He manages to add a few instances of some great artistic flair, too, particularly during the titular Alien’s escape from the government facility. My one real criticism however would have to be the character design of the Alien himself. In my opinion, he looks way too basic and almost sketch-like on occasion, and while I wasn’t expecting a Ridley Scott-style Xenomorph, a little more creativity than just a ‘big headed jelly baby’ might have added a little more to the Alien’s character. That said, the artwork of the human characters is solid, and Barnett does a great job of differentiating them from one another and giving each character their own unique ‘look’.
Kirby’s writing is solid enough, and his straightforward story is ideally pitched (no pun intended) for the all-ages market. While there’s still the occasional chuckle to be had for older readers, it’s a safe prediction to say that this book will undoubtedly find its niche with the younger comic book fan. There story doesn’t feature a lot of twists and turns, the characters are well defined and easy to identify, and the humor is fairly ‘on the nose’ at times.
Overall, while its appeal is definitely skewed towards the younger age range, there’s an undeniable charm to this title that a lot of people will undoubtedly get a kick out of. Not quite a home run, but still an intriguing, enjoyable all-ages read. If you have a younger comic fan in your life, you could do a lot worse than picking this one up for them.
As well as being available at London Super Comic Convention on the 15th and 16th of March (Table A4 in Artist’s Alley), issue one is also available to pre-order in both digital and print versions from the Alien in the Outfield webstore.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
Article Archive: Ceej Says