According to Merriam Webster, the word “outré” means “violating convention or propriety” or “bizarre.” Upon reading that the theme of issue two of the free comic anthology Outré was “hopelessness,” I was ready to jump on board with the standard definition for the work; however, by the end of the volume I, realized that outré has another meaning in this instance: unique, different, and utterly engaging.
In the interest of full disclosure, Brett Uren, one of the contributors to this issue of Outré, suggested that I read it to see another example of his work after I reviewed his single issue comic, The Vale; however, the opportunity to provide feedback to the other contributors wasn’t something I could pass up, especially given the unique feel to many of the stories and artwork. I especially appreciated the two interviews, because, as a new comic reader, I don’t have much familiarity with many writers or artists in the field. Getting insight into their personalities and creative styles was highly informative and entertaining.
I heartily enjoyed Brett’s contribution to the anthology, a short comic titled “Torsobear.” The art style and color choices made it feel like a more disturbing and adult Hanna Barbera piece, and the blend of issues such as racism, crises of faith, and horrific crimes with a world of toys resonated with me. As an added bonus, Ruxby’s name reminded me of an old toy from my childhood, Teddy Ruxpin, a bear doll that played cassette tapes with stories. I never owned one, but the ads for the somewhat creepy toy were on every TV station.
Kevin Fong’s story, “Cassandra,” hit me in a very personal place, because I have struggled with clinical depression my entire life. The title character is on a medication that probably isn’t appropriate for her, because it saps her energy, causes weight gain, and makes her feel like a stranger in her own skin. While Cassandra no longer has extreme highs and lows, she feels flat until one night she fights through the lethargy to escape from her bedroom window. For a brief moment she finds perfect freedom and sees hope in the startling ending. Fortunately, I have never experienced the type of issues with anti-depressants as Cassandra, and I know I cannot function without a little chemical help; however, I know that many creative people feel cut off from their muses with them. Fong’s interpretation is both freeing and saddening, but I also believe it will make people think about how many doctors use these drugs indiscriminately.
The third story in the anthology is “Surviving the Collide” by Michael Deshane, and it’s a look at a bizarre alien invasion of a species that looks like wobbling, sentient gelatin. The main character lost her husband in the first wave of the attacks (although it was the collapse of their house that killed him, not an alien), and she struggles to survive and keep her unborn child safe. The focus was more of a straight day-in-the-life-when-there’s-always-the-chance-of-alien-Jell-O-coming-to-eat-you tale, and while it was interesting, I personally found it less compelling than the first two stories; however, the concept might work well as the basis for a longer comic.
Jonathan Clode’s “Brenda” probably depressed me the most out of the stories in Outré, because it told the story of an elderly woman in a nursing home, which made me think of my late grandmother’s fear of having to be placed into some type of elder care facility. Brenda longs to go home and feels that the staff and other residents distrust her. The reality is that she is trapped in her own mind and no longer can communicate or care for herself. The art for “Brenda” is more simplistic than some of the other stories, but it reflected the thought process in Brenda’s mind. It added a certain sad charm to her internal world. This story left me with the bleakest emotions at the end out of any of the stories in the anthology, but my personal baggage definitely contributed to my visceral reaction.
The two interviews in this issue of Outré are for Rachel Deering and Brett Uren. If you ever wanted to learn more about these two creators, definitely pick this free issue up. The interviews take up at least two full pages, if not more, and each creator is open about their experiences in the industry and where they hope to go in the future.
There are three full-page illustrations included in Outré, as well, and each one is lovely in its own way. My personal favorite was “The Death of Hope” from Sarah Jones, because I loved the bittersweet fairy tale/anime-esque feel of the artwork; however, all three pieces are beautifully rendered, and any of them would be lovely for hanging on a wall if you appreciate darker pieces.
Overall, I enjoyed Outré #2 immensely, but it did leave me with a hollow place inside. I wouldn’t read this if you want a pick me up, but if you’d like to see short works from less well-known creators and read some fascinating interviews, it’s worth downloading. (It’s free!) You may be left feeling a little unsettled, but you’ll think about life a little once the last page is turned.
4.5 Looks Into the Dark Void out of 5
Outré #2 is available for download here, as is the first volume.