Anamaria Falcone ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Story By: Brian Augustyn
Art By: Humberto Ramos
Colors By: Studio F, Edgar Delgado
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Out There: The Evil Within is a comic so obscure that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page written for it. If you look up something on Google, and the first website that comes up isn’t Wikipedia, then we normally regard it as being an unimportant subject. Out There, however, doesn’t have an article written on it not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s old—if you count 2001 as being old, that is. BOOM! Studios is re-releasing Humberto Ramos and Brian Augustyn’s three-part graphic novel series fifteen years after its first publication. This will hopefully inspire someone, somewhere to finally write something about the Out There universe on Wikipedia because it deserves some recognition.
Out There’s hero, Jessica Santiago, witnesses the world as she knows it being destroyed before her by demons in a horrifically realistic nightmare. Little does she know that this vision is soon going to become a reality as ghouls begin taking over residents of El Dorado City. Santiago isn’t the only one to notice these strange creatures, though. Fellow outcast Mark Wexler, along with cheerleader Casey Phillips and her quarterback boyfriend Zach Mullins realize a great evil is rising in their seemingly humdrum suburban city. Not to mention, each high schooler is beginning to develop their own confusing psychic powers to defend themselves from the ghouls. And as if things couldn’t get any more disturbing, it turns out that the leaders of El Dorado are entirely aware of the demonic disturbances because they allowed it to happen. That’s right, the city council sold the souls of their citizens to a demon lord in order to ensure their town’s safety in the upcoming apocalypse. Realizing that this deal with the devil will most likely not turn out well for El Dorado City, the four teenagers must set aside their petty differences and unite in order to save their home from impending doom.
Humberto Ramos draws his characters in a cubist, manga-influenced style that takes some time to get used to throughout the novel. However, the boldness of his designs help contribute to the tension of the story as a whole. Edgar Delgado’s sense of color in addition balances the lightness and darkness in each panel, which allows for the comic to maintain its light-hearted moments despite its dark undertones. Viewing his work in a modern context makes it feel somewhat retro, which is terrifying because 2001 was only fifteen years ago.
The characterization of the teenagers and their dialogue feels as though Brian Augustyn drew upon shows from the CW for inspiration, but this is forgivable because Out There was written in the early 2000s. Each character is based off a high school archetype, which seems generic at first, until Augustyn reveals what each of these teenagers are like when they’re outside of school. For instance, cheerleader Casey isn’t all smiles when she’s away from her clique and has to deal with the death of her father, and nerdy Mark proves himself to be the most heroic one of the bunch in times of crisis despite being wailed on at school constantly. Augustyn’s protagonists are, in a sense, each charming in their own darkly campy ways. In addition, it’s important to mention that Out There’s main character is Jessica Santiago, a badass and clever Latina.
Comic books are notorious for featuring mainly white males as leading heroes, and although this trend has seen a change since the new millennium, only parts of this problem have been solved. For instance, more Latinos have been making appearances in comic books, but a majority of these heroes and villains are men. Meanwhile, although more women have been the title character of their stories, most of them are non-minorities. In order to solve issues of diversity, many big name comics have tried genderbending and race-bending iconic characters. Instead of re-envisioning characters to cater to a more politically correct audience, more comic book writers and artists should take a page out of Augustyn and Ramos’s book and create a new character like Jessica Santiago that brings diversity to the comic book industry as a whole, and not just to the comic brand.
All talk about diversity aside, Out There: The Evil Within deserves the recognition it didn’t seem to get during its first publication. Despite the dated 2000s feel to the overall aesthetic of the comic as a whole, Out There is worth a read for any graphic novel appreciator. Especially for those that wish to take a quick vacation from the insanity of the ever growing storylines of superhero multiverses—you know exactly which ones I’m talking about.