Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colorist: José Villarrubia
Publisher: Image Comics
Review by Jim Allegro
The haunted house tale gets a makeover this week with the trade paperback release of Infidel. This Image comic tells the story of a Pakistani-American woman who tangles with an angry spirit that stalks her apartment building. Released to acclaim earlier this year, Infidel is both scary and topical. It is a superb example of political suspense that provokes you into thinking about timely issues without losing sight of the goal of a horror comic – to frighten you. Writer Pornsak Picheshote and artist Aaron Campbell turn our shared anxieties about xenophobia and terrorism into the stuff of nightmares.
Pichetshote (Swamp Thing) is subtle enough with the political content that it does not overtake the story. The enraged spirit that haunts Aisha and her family is linked in some way to the explosion of a bomb in their building months earlier by an Arab tenant. Aisha’s struggle against this spirit mirrors her struggle against Islamophobia. Her husband Tom’s mother shares her anti-Muslim feelings with Tom’s daughter, Kris. Meanwhile, Aisha’s friends fight for her life as the spirit threatens to overwhelm her. Medina, who was raised Muslim but is now an atheist, attempts to vanquish the ghost in a suitably engaging climax that also furnishes a thoughtful comment on the nature of racism in America.
The artwork compliments these themes by creating an atmosphere of unease and fear. Campbell (The Shadow) mixes pencil sketches and other media to make the reading experience similar to that of watching a horror film. We wait for something menacing to jump out of the panel, or screen, as the case may be. Villarrubia (Batman: Year 100) is not the first artist to use red shading to heighten the fear, but he is the first that I can think of to achieve the same effect with grey and blue. Overall, we should applaud the creative team for their ambitious use of technique. The result is an intelligent and truly horrifying story.
Verdict: Buy it.
The trade edition of Infidel includes extras such as character sketches, essays from Tananarive Due and Jeff Lemire, and Pichetshote’s and Cambell’s original pitch to Image Comics.