The first story in the issue, "Planetary Rings," shows the dissolution of a marriage set against an intergalactic setting. Without dialogue, I could fill in my own words for the discussion between the husband and wife. I believe that the blue-skinned woman on the space craft was the other woman who helped finish off the dying connection, but every reader may have a slightly different interpretation of the events, since pictures only convey a portion of the tale.
I found the second story, "The Language of Violence," both horribly disturbing and strangely compelling. The main character appears to be the head interrogator in some sort of government facility and routinely utilizes torture in his job. His relationships with his wife and young son have deteriorated, and in the final scenes he finally goes over the edge. Given how often I have heard how law enforcement, soldiers, and other high-stress workers struggle to let go of their jobs when they get home, I easily related to the horror of the story, and my heart broke a little for the protagonist, even as I despised him for being willing to continue in his job.
After the bleakness of "The Language of Violence," Outré #4’s third story, "Peon," is almost cute. The lead is some sort of low level demon in a sword and sorcery setting, where humans and demons/goblins/orcs/etc. are at war. The tiny protagonist works for the humans, but he isn’t respected by either side; he is simply seen as a grunt who hauls wood and does other menial tasks. No one believes him when he reports an enemy force on the outskirts of the human castle, and, after a series of mishaps, our little misfit saves the day! Will he get any respect for it? Probably not. The sweetness and heart of the little, green dude made me smile a little, and I’d love to see more of his adventures as he fights for recognition.
"Cyborg Witch," the final story, was the hardest one for me to interpret, because I wasn’t entirely sure which side the female lead was on initially. The artwork, however, was my favorite out of the four main stories, and I loved the inclusion of a strong female character in one of the anthology’s selections. Regardless of my slight confusion at the beginning, "Cyborg Witch" is a battle tale of a seemingly harmless loner who faces off against a metallic, monster creation. She has a few tricks up her sleeve, and the ending definitely isn’t anticipated by the rest of the cast. Don’t underestimate a woman just because she looks pretty and sweet!
Danos Philopoulos, Noel Franklin, and Giles Crawford provided the three portraits at the end of the issue. Crawford’s piece also is the cover for this issue. All three are intriguing interpretations of silence, but I particularly enjoyed the Gorey-esque quality of his black-and-white line work.
I’m very much a words person, so reading Outré #4 was harder for me than it would be for a more visual individual; however, I was impressed with the challenge the creators took at telling a story without any dialogue to clarify the pictorial actions. Each creative team worked a little differently, but kudos for taking it on! I had to use my imagination to fill in the gaps, and I think that will give each reader a unique experience.
4 Desires to Hug and Squeeze the Little, Green Guy from Peon out of 5
*Outré 4 is available for download here, as are the previous volumes.