Writer: Jack RB Kirby
Artist: Mat Barnett
Alien in the Outfield – a wonderfully accessible, baseball-themed homage to 80s kids movies from Mat Barnett and Jack RB Kirby – initially grabbed our attention way back in early 2014 with its easy charm and earnest humour. However, as much as we clearly enjoyed it here at the Big Comic Page, there always seemed to be something… missing.
That thing, as it turns out, was colour.
Thankfully, Jack and Mat have remedied that problem in emphatic fashion, courtesy of a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign to release a full-colour collected edition of their four-part story. They’ve also tweaked the narrative a little, streamlining things and creating a far more polished, far more enjoyable reading experience as a result.
The story introduces us to Joel Horovitz, a bullied high-schooler who – in an effort to make some friends – joins the worst little league baseball team in the state, the Roswell Rockets. He and the band of misfits that make up the team seem destined for another season of abject failure when they stumble across a mysterious baseball-loving extra-terrestrial who joins the team, skyrocketing them all the way to the Final Game at the Albuquerque Arena. But with the government hot on their heels, will the Rockets be able to win the championship and send their alien ringer back home where he belongs?
The story plays around with a lot of established tropes, wearing its inspirations proudly on its sleeve throughout. Mat and Jack’s fondness for 80s culture shines through, from Space Invaders to Highlander and everything in between, and for all the wacky, child-friendly fun, they never fully neglect their adult audience, with several knowing one-liners slotted in along the way.
Barnett’s artwork is solid and straightforward, but benefits hugely from the added colour, giving it a depth and substance that the single issues lacked. There’s a definite roughness to some of the pages, but he manages to nail the key storyline beats with no small amount of flair, and the book flows smoothly throughout, mixing good humoured comedy with slapstick action as the story rapidly unfolds.
A little bit Goonies, a little bit Teen Wolf and a little bit E.T., Alien in the Outfield is an accessible and enjoyable all-ages romp. If you have a younger comic fan in your life, you could do a heck of a lot worse than introducing them to this story, but even if you’re a bitter, cynical thirtysomething like myself, there’s still just enough charm and smile-raising pop culture references here to make this a worthwhile purchase.
Alien In The Outfield TP will be available at Thought Bubble in Leeds this weekend, but if you can’t make it, be sure to keep an eye on the official Alien In The Outfield website for news on how to get your hands on a copy.