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October 18th, 2012

Outsider

Review written by Teri Mehalski

It’s the year 2158 and Earth finds itself caught in the centre of an intergalactic war of epic proportions. On the one side stand the insectoid Umiak and on the other the elf-like Loroi. Both combatants are as intimidating as they are mysterious. In this fight everyone has to pick a side, neutrality is not an option, and if humanity has any hope of survival they have to make their choice and soon. Fresh out of the TCA Academy, Ensign Alexander Jardin is up for anything. Assigned to the Ballarmine, a scout ship sent to make contact with potential extraterrestrial allies, Jardin knows that the galaxy is a dangerous, unpredictable place but he has no idea the adventure he’s about embark upon. 

Written and drawn by Jim Francis, Outsider is first and foremost a labour of love. In a world where creating independent comics is always a challenge, any creator who produces a story like Outsider in their spare time and makes it available to readers for free on the web deserves respect. For those who enjoy a classic science fiction adventure Outsider has all the makings of a good old intergalactic romp.

Outsider is drawn using a combination of digital 2D, 3D and hand-drawn artwork. The very first thing that I really enjoyed about Francis’ artwork was the ships. As someone who appreciates a well-drawn spaceship, I found his designs to be delightfully detailed, and well-coloured with plenty of contrasting tones. The battle sequences in the closing pages of the first chapter provide plenty of sweeping ship views for those, like myself, who appreciate such things. Francis’ characters sometimes suffer from a somewhat limited range of facial expressions but this is well balanced by their expressive body language and hand gestures.

Although from the outset Outsider shows many of the trademark characteristics of the classic mono-myth the story moves along at a satisfying clip and swiftly introduces a number of fascinating elements meaning that any narrative clichés are offset by the energy of the action. Francis is clearly playing a long game, introducing Jardin, and the reader, to a totally new environment where there are generally more questions than answers. No doubt the politics of the war will become clearer as Jardin finds his place among the Loroi. The story strikes a nice balance between action and comedy too with a number of snort-inducing cultural miscommunications in Jardin’s first meeting with the Loroi.

The Loroi themselves are an interesting addition to this story. Appearing as essentially elves in space I was immediately taken with the contrast between their futuristic technology and their more medieval persona a la Lord of the Rings. When it is revealed that the Loroi males are considered too valuable for breeding purposes to be risked in battle I did feel a wave of foreboding, was this comic about to turn into a kinky sci-fi sex fantasy? A young man captured by a ship full of lithe alien battle vixens who’ve been stuck on the front lines, far from their men, for too long – sounds like a recipe for dodgy space porn! But so far things have stayed strictly family friendly.

Reading the first chapter of Outsider it looks like this series is only just getting going and Francis has many more adventures in store for Alexander Jardin. Readers can look forward to discovering the truth behind the Loroi-Umiak conflict and finding out whether Earth and its colonies can survive being at the eye of the storm in this bitter war.




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