Previously: Infidel #1.
While last month’s first issue introduced us to a haunted house unlike any we had ever really seen before, this is still a haunted house story. In case you needed to be reminded of that fact, issue #2 is here with a whole mess of receipts.
There are so many things to love about this series so far, and I’ll get to a lot of them shortly, but I must begin where this issue chose to begin: a “previously” page. As someone who reads too many comics, and has to make an attempt at writing intelligently about several of them, I appreciate it so much when a series does anything to make it easier for me to jump right in and read without having to go back and reacquaint myself with the story. Here, not only does the series provide a short recap of what happened last time, but it also reminds of you of the important characters’ names. Remembering character names is often hard when you’re so early in a series.
The most brilliant thing about this series’ willingness to recap itself, though? It’s wholly unnecessary. This series’ first issues have been written so cleanly by Pornsak Pichetshote that it’s already easy to remember everything. Case in point: in this issue, we’re introduced to a diverse group of Aisha’s friends–Aisha is the lead, if you don’t recall. Not only is the scene in which we meet these three new characters written in such an organic way as to inform you of all their names (Ethan, Grace, and Reynolds), but it also tells you so much about their history as tenants in this building and their differing personalities. The scene plays out over four pages, which is a lot of real estate for one scene in a 26-page issue, but you’re given so much out of it. These are now characters I could easily recognize in future scenes and have a good idea of how they would each act in various circumstances. This is great writing building the foundation of a story.
And that’s not even the best writing in this issue. There are two aspects to how this series is being written that I actually like more than that scene I just rambled on about. The first is something that has stretched across both of these first two issues: how Star Wars is being used. The relationships in this series are clearly very complicated; just like everything else, this has been so well communicated in such a short time. When you look at the relationship between Aisha and Leslie, her future mother-in-law, and how it differs from her fiancé Tom’s relationship with Leslie, you see so much history they’ve experienced together and separately and how that history influences how they interact now. Aisha is actually trying with Leslie, and Leslie does seem to be doing the same, and we get this through the series’ use of Star Wars. Leslie wants to get closer to Kris, her granddaughter, and Kris likes Star Wars, so it has become a touchstone Leslie and Aisha can use to talk to each other. Not only is this excellent writing from the standpoint that it allows the reader an easy vantage into this relationship, but it’s also just very realistic.
However, that’s not my favorite thing about how this series is being written, either. What I love most about this series’ writing is actually tied to how it’s being illustrated. There are so many panels in Infidel without any words, at all. Yes, my favorite thing about the writing is the part where there’s no writing. It’s so refreshing to ingest any story–comic, television, movie, etc–that is not overwritten. So many stories write themselves to death trying to explain every detail. These first two issues of Infidel have been very well-written, but some of the best moments have come when it just lets Aaron Campbell and José Villarrubia’s art do the talking. Facial expressions, body language, character positioning, lighting, shading: it all says something, and sometimes it’s all you need.
I could keep going on this for a while, but I should probably take my own advice and not overwrite this review, so stick with me for two more paragraphs. One other thing I’m loving about the artwork here, and how it’s used in conjunction with the writing, is how these demons/ghosts/whatever are haunting Aisha. They follow her like a bad memory, popping up during random, mundane activities, and that is visually presented well. The demons here are certainly visually arresting, and there are some jump scare-type moments–and the horror story is progressing in a satisfyingly haunting way–but it’s less about making you jump and more about making you worry. This is evidenced by one panel where Leslie’s demons make their own appearance, causing the colors to shift in response, even though there are no visible creatures. This is a well-made fucking comic book.
Lastly, there is some fantastic back matter for us here. Not only do we get another sort of essay from Pichetshote where he discusses his experience in America, but we’re also treated to some artwork and thoughts from José Villarrubia’s students; Villarrubia is a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art. This issue has so many great things going on, and it’s only the second one. I have some ideas about where the story is going, but I don’t even want to guess; I just want to see it.