Urban Horror With A Modern Twist
♦ Tripwire’s new contributing writer Tim Cundle takes a look at Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s Infidel in trade now from Image Comics…
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colourist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Anyone unfamiliar with the four colour world could be forgiven, given the plethora of superhero films and merchandise flooding the cinematic and consumer markets, for thinking that comics are merely a vehicle for powered demi-gods to flex their muscles and audition for their big screen outings. After all, caped crusaders and masked villains, especially the intergalactic variety, are all the rage; and the public fervour that greets each of their successive outings, if anything, continues to increase in intensity. With no sign of the super-powered trend dissipating, the medium that gave birth to the superhero seems, for the most part, content to go with the mainstream flow and give people exactly what they want. Don’t get me wrong, I love superheroes and tales of daring do as much as the next person, but I’m also acutely aware, possibly given my age and long standing love affair with them, that there’s so much more to comics than X-Ray Vision, cave based lairs and fending off monthly alien invasions. Which is probably why it was such a pleasure to read Pornsak Pitchetshote’s Infidel.
Infidel takes the slightly over-used modern interpretation of the traditional haunted house trope, of a building plagued by evil spirits who prey on the living that was most effectively utilised in films such as The Amityville Horror, Sinister, Poltergeist etc., and gives it a new, refreshing and unique spin. Pitchetshote’s story centres around Aisha, a young Muslim woman who, along with her boyfriend and his daughter, has moved into a building in desperate need of renovation following an incident involving a number of former residents. Living with her boyfriend’s mother, who having suffered a significant loss during a terrorist attack is unconsciously biased toward her son’s partner, was never going to be easy, but when she starts seeing “things” in the building, Aisha’s life suddenly becomes a lot more frightening. As the frequency of her “hallucinations” increases, so does her terror. Despite trying to get along with her multi-cultural neighbours, Aisha feels increasingly isolated and even though her childhood best friend attempts to help, falls victim to the darkness that’s encroaching upon and possessing the building. And when Aisha falls down, all of the other residents fall down too, gradually succumbing, with a little assistance from the place in which they live, to their innermost fears, insecurities and prejudices.
Pitchetshote however, like all fans of the genre, knows that every good horror story needs to have a relatively happy ending, albeit one with a sting in its tail, and he wraps up his wonderfully self-contained story in a way that doesn’t disappoint, but at the same time leaves the door open for a sequel. Mirroring the social turmoil and xenophobia that is currently plaguing Western societies and bottling it and using it as the main theme of the book was an incredibly smart move, as it grounds Infidel in a world that its audience is all too aware of and familiar with. The instantly relatable and recognisable characters, most of whom bear some similarities with friends and acquaintances that we’ve all met somewhere along the way and the frank, open, honest and at times, all too real dialogue make Infidel all the more believable and give it a sense of time and place that in turn, makes it all the more terrifying. Aaron Campbell’s astonishing art shifts, and occasionally seems to move, with and according to, the ever-changing mood, tone and emotion of the story, giving Pitchetshote’s story the room it needs to breathe and take on a life of its own. Some wise man once said that greatest stories are a reflection of the times in which they are created, and if that’s the case, which I firmly believe it is, then Infidel is destined to become a cult, if not mainstream, classic. Tim Cundle
Infidel is out now in trade from Image comics