Publisher: Outfield Press
Writer: Jack RB Kirby
Artist: Mat Barnett
Release Date: 14th November 2015 (Thought Bubble)
The third instalment of Jack RB Kirby and Mat Barnett’s Alien in the Outfield sees our hero Joel and his little league baseball team the “Roswell Rockets” tearing their way through the competition – thanks in no small part to their extra-terrestrial ‘ringer’. The issue opens with a classic 80’s style montage (because, y’know, there has to be a montage, right?) of the Alien interacting with all the individual team members, and it works so well that you can practically hear the cheesy classic rock theme tune blaring in the background.
One thing that remains obvious with this series, even from the very first page – a glorious homage to Drew Struzan’s iconic “Goonies” movie poster – is just how much affection the creators have for the genre they’re paying tribute to. The series has been littered with Easter Eggs and affectionate nods to 80’s nostalgia from the get-go, and that trend continues here with subtle references to the likes of Miami Vice and Ferris Bueller, to name but two. It’s also worth noting however that while there are plenty of references thrown in for the older readers, this is most definitely a book which is aimed at the younger audience.
As with all good teenage movies (and comics, for that matter), the parents and grown-ups remain largely absent, a convention that Barnett and Kirby take in an interesting new direction in this issue. While the parents are usually the sceptical doubters or – in many cases – the out-and-out villains, in this case we find out that not all grown-ups are necessarily like that, adding a wonderfully charming wrinkle to the story as it nears its conclusion. We also get a little flirtation with some romance along the way, because hey, who doesn’t like a little bit of young love mixed in with their sci-fi all-ages shennanigans, right?
While it’s still undeniably basic, it’s also clear to see that Barnett’s artwork has come along in leaps and bounds since the first issue of this series, and his pages flow much smoother here as he dabbles with some slightly more creative layouts. It’s also exciting to discover that once the fourth and final issue of the series is in the bag, Jack and Mat are planning to collect the entire story in one volume – with added COLOUR! One of my main criticisms of the first couple of issues has been the somewhat bleak, black and white style, especially given the eye-catching nature of the covers, so to find out that we will eventually get to see this story play out in glorious technicolour makes me a very happy reader.
Once again, the parallels to movies like E.T. and The Goonies are obvious, but this is more of a loving homage than an unscrupulous rip-off, with the charm and sensibilities of ‘the underdog loner going on an unbelievable adventure’ format very much at the forefront of this series. This issue also does more to push the story forward than the previous two combined, and with the Alien’s plan to signal his home planet hanging by a thread, it’s safe to say that the bases are most definitely loaded as we go into the final issue. Thankfully, given the noticeable improvement from issue one to where we are now, I have no doubt in my mind that Barnett and Kirby are going to knock this one out of the park with their finale.
Alien in the Outfield is available to order online – in both printed and digital formats – from Jack and Mat’s online store.