This Column Originally Ran On Comics Bulletin
Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin
In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for the local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week Daniel Elkin randomly grabs a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang he can get for his two-bits. These are those tales.
January 4, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
OUT THERE #5
Published by: Cliffhanger!
Written by: Brian Augustyn
Art by: Humberto Ramos
SOMETHING FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN SOCIAL STATUS.
November of 2001 heralded a slew of releases into the American pop culture machine. Movies like Monsters, Inc. and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone came out. Both the Xbox and The Nintendo GameCube were released. The Facts of Life Reunion Special aired on TV. So Solid Crew debuted with their album They Don't Know, GWAR released Violence Has Arrived, and the Silver Jews released Bright Flight.
Hell, they even let China into the WTO in November of 2001.
Sure, we lost both George Harrison and The Angry Beavers, but I'm telling you – everything about November 2001 was full of fecundity.
Into this fructiferous month, Cliffhanger! released Out There #5 by Brian Augustyn and Humberto Ramos. At the time, Cliffhanger! was part of Wildstorm which was part of Image Comics. The imprint lasted from 1998 to 2004 when it became part of the Homage Comics line and formed the Wildstorm Signature Series. Out There was the fifth title produced by Cliffhanger!, and it is only fitting somehow that issue number five of this series ended up in my hands today.
Or something like that...
Out There #5 starts with a full page of recap. We're in El Dorado City, California. Evil Forces are afoot. Citizens are against citizens, fathers are against sons, spectral entities are invading -- you know the drill:
We meet Zach and his dad. His dad was possessed by one of those spectral entities and tried to kill Zach. Somehow dad was able to fight off the possession and refrain from filicide (not to be confused with felicide).
Dad feels bad:
The story cuts to City Hall where the Sheriff is investigating the fact that there was a weird and mysterious explosion in the mayor's office. Mayor Wess is missing. The sheriff vows to “Get Them...” I have no idea who “they” are as of yet.
Back to Zach and dad then. Now we meet some other characters: there's Abel who is huge and doesn't talk, there's Mark who is short and wears glasses, there's Casey who is seems to be Zach's love interest, there's Jess who wears a doo-rag and big shoes, and there's Becky Goodwin who is also known as Reverend Becky.
Dad confesses to Reverend Becky that he tried to kill Zach. To this, Revererend Becky responds:
That's right kids, Dark Forces are straining to Break Through.... You know how awkward that can be, especially when you have to stand up in front of the whole class. That's why Reverend Becky is here.
Dad tells everyone that a work crew is scheduled to erect a “staging apparatus” tomorrow. Reverend Becky is concerned. She is under the impression that the four kids (Zach, Mark, Casey, and Jess) are the only one's who can stop the evil forces from breaking through.
I don't know what happened to Abel. He completely disappears from the comic at this point. Maybe he got Cained (see what I did there)?
Then the comic gives us this piece of business:
Say what you will about this comic (and I still have things to say), I think we all should spend a moment basking in the glory that is this page. The combination of Humberto Ramos' pencils, Sandra Hope's inks, and Studio F's colors make this one nice piece of eye candy. Some people say that Ramos' work is an acquired taste, that he's too “cartoon-y” to be working in mainstream comics. To this, I say, “Take a look at this page from Out There #5 and shut the hell up.”
So, anyway... There's this big bad guy named Draedalus (which is like carpel tunnel, but you only get it on Chanukah). Draedalus is in cahoots with the Sheriff. The fact that Draedalus wasn't involved in the explosion that killed the mayor indicates that there are some other players in the game.
But Draedalus is unconcerned really, as their invasion of Earth begins tomorrow night. Earth, he says, “hides a treasure of immeasurable cosmic import.” I assume he is talking about the McRib.
Whoever possesses this treasure, Draedalus continues, “commands the multiverse.” I assume that is why McDonalds only releases it seasonally.
Wow. Two McRib jokes in a row. You're welcome.
Draedalus will reward the Sheriff and his cronies for their aid in this grand scheme. The rest of the town... well.... they will “fare much less well”
Oh, and Draedalus wants the Sheriff to kill those meddling kids (my words, not his).
Speaking of those meddling kids, what have they been up to? We'll it's the next day and they are back in school. It seems that Zach was one of the popular kids at John C. Fremont High. Now that he is hanging out with “geeks,” he has lost his social status. His “no-necked” friend Loomis wants to set him straight. Zach is above all that now, though.
There's something far more important than social status? Whatever it is, it must be intense.
I think they may be referring to the McRib.
That's three McRib jokes now for those of you counting at home.
Suddenly the Sheriff shows up at school. He's either possessed or drunk, but either way he's there to kill the kids. The kids do the sensible thing -- run away.
FYI: It turns out the school wasn't always a school. Before it was a school it was an asylum. Of course it was, This is just another example of typical big government re-purposing liberal bull hockey and ummm.... those other things that conservatives say to express their anger!
Luckily in the attic there are all these asylum leftover devices lying around. Jess puts one to good use.
Once again, the entire art team shines (albeit in a muted way) on this page. The dynamism, the shadows, the layout, the color – this is some pretty sweet stuff. And the Sheriff's line in the bottom panel? Golden.
Sheriff pulls his gun. Jess tries to kick it out of his hands, but she slips on some other old asylum detritus and ends up smacking her head on the dusty floor.
Then this happens:
Damn, Jess – Mark just took a bullet for you. I think you owe him. At least a McRib.
Somehow putting a bullet in a 14 year old kid shakes the Sheriff out of his possession/drunkenness and he runs away.
Mark is dying. Jess got guilt. Casey, though, has the magic healing touch and with some crackling laying-on-of-hands action, she brings Mark back to full health. Casey has the touch. She's good to keep around.
The comic wraps up with the Sheriff heading over to the house of some weird guy with a shaved head, glasses, and a goatee (a classic look for those bold enough to sport it). This guy's name is Bridges. He's apparently not who everyone thinks he is:
Who is he?
Well the comic ends with this splash page:
Whoah. How about that?
One point of contention, and this is real nit-picky and I apologize for that (although I did give you McRib jokes earlier, so cut me some slack). I find it a little awkward when a writer puts “The End is Near.” on the last page of a comic. I don't think I really need to explain that. I have great faith that you understand my concern.
So ultimately, what value does Out There #5 bring to the world? I'm not sure really. Certainly there are some beautiful moments of art thanks to Humberto Ramos and crew – that alone should be worth the 50 cents I paid for it. As a complete package though, I don't really know what to make of it.
I've always liked stories about the hidden evil in suburban neighborhoods, but Sherwood Anderson and David Lynch have already done that trope proud and Out There #5 is certainly not at that level. It's also got that outcast kids saving the world thing going on, which is nice, but Out There #5 ain't no Power Pack, if you know what I'm saying.
What can I say about Out There #5? For fifty cents I got to look at some art that I liked, I didn't get a headache, and it led me to a few McRib jokes.
I guess that's money well spent.
If you've read the series, I would love to hear your thoughts.
If you miss the McRib? Don't worry. It will be back.
See you next week.