by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
One of the most distinctive stylistic choices of Outcast has always been its use of small insert shots, inset into larger panels. Early in the series, those inserts were largely used to capture small scene details and gestures, but as the cast has grown, they’ve increasingly focused on faces, offering us the emotional state of several characters at a glance — especially those who might not be actively participating in the action/conversation of the scene. We might understand that as reflective of Kyle’s own shift in priorities, focusing less on the textural trappings of his life and more on the people he loves, but the effect is a series that now has an audience surrogate on virtually every page, reflecting our own shock and horror back at us.
Er — I guess it’s not just shock and horror. This issue alone features insert expressions that range from awe to consternation, but it’s the moments of horror that I find the most effective. Take a look at how the inserts augment and change this group shot:
We already have a group shot that draws everyone’s eye to the commotion at the bottom of the panel, and the body language makes it clear that everyone is baffled and frightened by what they’re seeing. And while the static nature of comics allows us to focus on any one of the figures in the scene, effectively picking out closeups or two-shots out of the tableau, the subject of a group shot is always the group as a whole. By giving us these inserts, Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta humanize this crowd, keeping us aware of the individuals within it, however nameless they might be. I’m particularly impressed at the way Azaceta maintains the sight-lines in the inserts, such that everything on the page is directing us to the action at the bottom of the panel.
But of course, these inserts are used in countless ways in this issue. Beyond adding context and perspective to scenes, they can also emphasize action or amp up tension. I’m particularly fond of this sequence, where Rowland Tusk’s stone-faced stare makes his underlings increasingly nervous.
That scene would work without those inserts, but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.
Outcast‘s insert shots have always added invaluable texture to every scene, but as the cast grows, the most important texture becomes their emotions and relationships. Kirkman and Azaceta have adjusted their approach with the inserts accordingly, and the results speak for themselves. This book has always been in capable hands, but seeing how these storytellers adapt as their story grows really drives that point home.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?