Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artwork: Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia (colours)
Release Date: 14th March 2018
Originally announced at last year’s New York Comic Con, Infidel is a new horror series from former Vertigo editor (and first-time comic writer) Pornsak Pichetshote and artist Aaron Campbell, the first issue of which goes on sale next month.
It introduces us to Aisha, a young American Muslim woman ostracised by her family for being engaged to a non-Muslim and forced to move in with her fiancé, his daughter Kris and her mother-in-law to be. It’s a tense situation already, and that’s before we even get to the troubled history of the building they’re living in and the harrowing, visceral nightmares that are preventing Aisha from getting a good night’s sleep.
The bulk of the issue is concerned with building up an investment in Aisha, tackling the issues surrounding her culture and the kind of casual racism she faces every day in a grounded, believable way. It’s inherently uncomfortable to watch these kind of exchanges take place, particularly given the fact that Pichetshote eschews the more extreme ‘pointed white hoods and swastikas’ approach in favour of a more subtle, passive-aggressive racism that almost all of us will have experienced first-hand at some point in our day-to-day lives.
Xenophobia aside however, this is a horror book first and foremost, and Pichetshote utilises an interesting approach here, making it abundantly clear in the first few pages that something genuinely disturbing is going on, only to play things incredibly straight for the remainder of the issue, leaving the reader on edge as they anxiously wait for the horror to return. It really helps to ramp up the tension, and the racist undertones only help to increase the sense of discomfort on the part the reader as the story gradually unfolds.
On the visual side of the story, Aaron Campbell is pretty much the perfect choice to provide the artwork for this series, with the trademark realism of his work only helping to emphasise the horror beats. Vitally, his characters look and act like real people, with believably subtle facial expressions and mannerisms, but when the time comes to cut loose with the scary, Campbell more than delivers, providing several panels here that are genuinely unsettling.
Campbell’s typically stellar work is only emphasied by the colours of Jose Villarrubia, who keeps everything muted and grimy for the most part before cutting loose in what is a letigimately terrifying sequence near the end of the issue. There are also several smaller panels along the way without any background, and Villarrubia uses block colour to show different perspectives and emotions during these scenes, underscoring the work of Pichetshote and Campbell to really help sell the flow of the story.
My only real niggle is that it’s perhaps a little frustrating that the solicitation info gives away far more of the story that the first issue itself does, although that’s becoming a bit of a recurring theme in today’s increasingly competitive comic marketplace. The pacing here is solid, but a cursory glimpse at the plot summary in the previews gives away a lot more than the creators do here, so my best advice would be to come into this series as blindly as you possible can – which I understand is a bit of an unusual suggestion near the end of a review of the first issue.
Ultimately then, while it’s playing its cards fairly close to the chest from the time being, Infidel has more than enough intriguing storyline concepts – as well as some truly striking artwork – to help it stand out in the bloated world of modern day comic book horror. And while blending aspects of horror and racism isn’t exactly a unique approach (see Jordan Peele’s Oscar-nominated “Get Out”, for instance), Pichetshote and Campbell have done it in a terrifyingly believable way here. Definitely a new series to keep an eye on.