By Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell
For non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual people, the world is a terrifying Schrodinger’s Cat of misjudgement and presumed malice. Horror stories of racism and hate crimes are rampant, and there’s no way of knowing when they might affect oneself. Infidel #1, in a single issue, captures these anxieties and presents them as the horror style narrative they truly are. Pichetshote tackles these issues with resonant characterization and mysterious narrative, while artist Aaron Campbell directs each panel like a film, showing the power relationships between each character. Infidel’s main character is an American Muslim woman, Aisha, who has recently moved into an old apartment complex with her white partner and his mother, but it doesn’t take long to realize something sinister is going on.
The interesting questions the comic proposes involve where the sinister something is coming from and what created it in the first place. There’s an obvious answer that Pichetshote and Campbell explore, but it’s unsure if Aisha is right to believe what she sees, or if she’s projecting blame onto the problem or simply its product. Each character has a different reason for their fear, or lack thereof, and each seems potentially valid. The mystery of Infidel alone is enough to grab readers’ attention, but that’s only a small part of this comics’ success. Aisha is a confident woman who’s thrown into a gauntlet of societal tests. She’s romantically involved with a white man whose disapproving mother lives with them. Not to mention the fact that her partner has a daughter from a previous relationship that Aisha now has a hand in raising. The complexity of her situation is able to speak to a wide range of readers without feeling overwhelming or pandering. Within only a few pages, Infidel #1 makes Aisha feel alive.
Campbell, on art duties, projects those personal moments even further. His attention to detail and rough, hatched style combines realism with horror. A simple realization about another character’s intent is shaded with fear or skepticism that sets the tone for entire series. For example, Campbell’s chalky, looming shadows are able to make each scene menacing, and displaying the ever-present menace. His skill with layout design is evident as well. He’s unafraid to slow down the pace and focus on revelatory details, showing beat by beat how actions reveal inner thoughts.
Infidel #1 is damn good and it deserves your money. Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell are putting their best work into this comic, combining horror with everyday racism and xenophobia in a way that rivals Get Out. These two artists know comics and how to use the medium’s best elements to convey character, theme, and tone like any of the best creators out there. Each page furthers the tension, forcing the reader’s theory to change with each new scene and a final jaw dropping moment. The uncomfortable feeling that an evil looms over Aisha’s home is omnipresent and unexplained, keeping the story’s tension at the forefront, unwavering. Infidel #1 is important and masterfully artful.