The third issue of Pariah, like the two before, focuses on a single “Vitro,” (part of a batch of children treated with in vitro cures for a rare and fatal genetic disease, who have demonstrated rapid, unexpected, and stratospheric levels of intelligence upon reaching puberty. Duh.) only this one happens to be a sociopath. He’s like a pubescent Hannibal Lector… but with less restraint. We first meet Robert Maudsley sitting on a park bench, an innocuous 13-year-old casually manipulating a stranger out of his hoagie. We then follow Maudsley through the next two years of his life, accented by a series of destructive, often violent, incidents, all of which he has orchestrated in order to achieve some selfish purpose or out of sheer curiosity. With no moral compass in evidence, the hyper-intelligence of a “vitro,” and a will to see how far he can push people, Robert Maudsley is like some child with a magnifying glass in a world full of ants.
Much like the character of Maudsley, although, hopefully, with purer intentions, Pariah writers Aron Warner and Philip Gelatt are, with these three issues of their twelve-issue comic series, setting various forces in motion and sending them on a collision course. It is frankly thrilling to watch. When reading Pariah, the reader is gleefully aware of the bigger picture that is slowly taking shape in front of their eyes. Where it’s taking us? I do not know, but I do know it is one hell of a ride. With the first two issues, we followed “vitros” who were polar opposites, but both generally good. This third issue will appeal to the cynics in the crowd as we see this teenager develop this incredible gift and exploit it utterly and unrepentantly. Whether you think Maudsley was sociopathic before becoming super-intelligent, or he became so because of his development, will determine what kind of cynic you are.
In many ways Pariah is unlike any comic I have ever read and, in many ways, it is like a lot of great comics that I’ve read. A ragtag group of misunderstood, super-powered youths, persecuted by the authorities, are forced to defend themselves (*cough*X-men*cough*coughcough*) Yet, I am consistently intrigued with the introduction of each new character who, despite having been bestowed with a similar congenital acumen, could not be more unique. These characters are not defined by what they are, but who they are. This and other messages will surely come into a clearer focus as the story unfolds, so why don’t you let me keep an eye on that hoagie for you, while you go pick up an issue. It’s what you want.