by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Infidel is tough for me to write about because it is so damn real and so damn scary. To look at how Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell are successful is to look deep into what scares me about the world. We’re talking about highly entrenched societal ills like racism, xenophobia, terrorism, murder. Infidel delivers on what’s scary about all of those enormous concepts, but perhaps more importantly gives similar horrific weight to the mundane inconveniences and atrocities of modern life and connects them to the aforementioned huge horrors. Do you feel safe, a few steps removed from accidentally throwing a loved one down the stairs? Well, joke’s on you: the spectre of Infidel is as close to you as a package of strawberries rotting on your kitchen counter.
Pichetshote and Campbell start the issue with a close up on Aisha’s shopping — a bottle of pills, a pint of ice cream, a half-gallon of milk, a carton of strawberries. Colorist Jose Villarrubia very smartly keeps the colors muted on every other object, but let’s those ripe red strawberries sing.
Without warning and without explanation, those berries will rot in Aisha’s kitchen. This is quick shorthand for Aisha’s fear of failing as a wife and step-mother, but it also recalls the story about rotting meat that kicked off the first issue. It all plays to this central theme of something good becoming bad. These berries are a test run for the more catastrophic horror Aisha is about to experience. The issue ends with the ghosts of the building driving Aisha to murder her mother-in-law. This is a complete journey on an axis labeled “rotting home life,” starting with spoilt food and ending with murder of a family member.
Which has me terrified about this other axis that Pichetshote and Campbell have only just labeled in this issue: “rotting social structure.” When Aisha goes down to Medina’s apartment to grab a drink with her neighbors, we get a sneak peek at the milder side of this axis. Grace, prompted by comments about what drives people to extremism, brings up the bombing in the building a few months ago. Campbell beautifully lets the moment just fucking sit there, thicker than any moment that proceeded it. Literally: that panel extends all the way to the edge of the page.
It’s telling that Campbell drops one of his horrifying visages right as Grace uses the word “Arab.” The horror here is the intolerance. These are the rotten strawberries of this axis of horror. I’m almost sick imagining what the other end of this spectrum is.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?