Outcastes issues 1-6
by Tony McGee
Outcastes opens with a pair of witchy, mysterious, amnesiac twins; Winter and Summer who are found in a cave on moors in what looks like some variation of Victorian era Britain. Taken to the local orphanage it seems as if madness and magic are following the pair, with Winter seeing a vision of a man he believes is his father warning him to gather his sister and leave this place and the atmosphere in the orphanage changing to one of fear, mistrust and barely contained violence that quickly boils over to murderous destruction with Winter and Summer and their orphan friend Geo escaping from the flames that have engulfed the place.
(Winter and Summer arrive at their new (temporary) home. But do they cause the destruction that ensues? From Outcastes issue 1 by Tony McGee)
And from this frenetically paced first issue the series moves forward at speed with each new issue bringing new encounters, new dangers and new knowledge for the twins, whether it’s a travelling stage magician who seems to know far more about real magic and their past than he should or a village with secrets and the same sense of repressed violence of the orphanage. The twins are obviously far more important to the story than they think, and the strangely masked Cunning Man is very interested in them – possibly going so far as to be the one spreading the fear and violent thoughts in the village.
In the meantime we’re tantalised by scenes of another place; Bohemia, where another witchy young girl Armida is desperately trying to stop the soldiers of the Liberation Army slaughtering her village of Dualist believers. But the protection she conjures up, the iron dreadnaught tanks we know from WWI, prove far more dangerous to both sides than she ever dreamt of.
(Armida unleashes the full force of the iron dreadnaughts with powerful magics. From Tony McGee’s Outcastes issue 2.)
Eventually the two strands of the comic meet up, as the twins, travelling into Europe to seek their father, last reportedly in foreign Par Isis (or is it Paris?) encounter Armida at sea in some decidedly steampunk looking iron ships and the assembled cast head to Par Isis….. where more mystery, magic and murder await them, with Armida instructing Summer in the ways of magic and young Geo falling foul of someone or something truly magical as the group investigate a colleague of their fathers – another stage magician who’s about to meet a grisly end at the hands of his beautiful assistant, who again, may not be all she seems. And from the shadows, the Cunning Man is following them…..
(The Cunning Man, called to the village that the twins find themselves in. But is it the twins or the Cunning Man who brings madness and murder to the villagers? And why is he following the twins abroad? From Tony McGee’s Outcastes issue 4.)
There are many moments of mystery and intrigue throughout Outcastes – such as the mystery of Armida and her Dualist religion – celebrating twin gods – might this prove very important to the mysterious twins Winter and Summer? Even the question of where the WWI tanks have come from and why? Who is the sinister Cunning Man and why is he following the twins, causing misery, madness and murder whereever he goes? Everything points towards the twins origins being very, very important to this world.
The main appeal of Outcastes is the rather intriguing sense of otherworldlyness that McGee has effortlessly created. The timeframe is never certain, the nature of reality seems bendable, the magical aspects are underplayed yet ever present. What seems to be a simple Victorian setting is soon warped by the prescense of WWI armour and there’s even a steampunk element introduced with the technology – especially with the iron ships seen in issue 5. It all goes to making a tremendously interesting setting, which combined with the excitement and adventure unfolding with the cast of characters makes Outcastes something really enjoyable.
My only real criticism of Outcastes is that it does occasionally feel that each issue has to follow a formula of threat, discovery, characterisation, threat resolution, move on, as if McGee is relying on the set pattern as a rather unnecessary storytelling crutch. Something this intriguing and enjoyable can easily cope with a little mixing up of the plot and pacing and certainly doesn’t need to rely on a formulaic structure each issue. But that’s only a small problem, and there’s far more fun to be had enjoying the sheer breakneck pace of the twins flight in pursuit of knowledge.
McGee’s artwork sits his tale very well, with strong characteristaion mixing with a panel layout that lends itself well to the fast flowing story. Storytelling is quick and clear, with all the mystery of the story represented in McGee’s stark, black and white art.
Tony McGees Outcastes which, halfway through it’s 12 issues is an intriguing, well written, well drawn tale, which I’m interested to see through to the end.