Infidel #1 Views Xenophobia Through Horror-Tinted Lenses: Advance Review

by Brendan M. Allen

A haunted house story for the 21st century, INFIDEL follows an American Muslim woman and her multiracial neighbors who move into a building haunted by entities that feed off xenophobia.

Bestselling editor Pornsak Pichetshote (Swamp Thing) makes his comics-writing debut alongside artist extraordinaire Aaron Campbell (The Shadow), award-winning colorist and editor Jose Villarubia (Promethea) and letterer / designer Jeff Powell(Scales & Scoundrels).

A practicing Muslim, in an interracial, interfaith engagement with a man who comes with a daughter from his previous marriage, living with her casually racist future mother-in-law, in a building full of overtly racist neighbors. That’d be enough, yeah? Nah, let’s also have her suffer from intense nightmares and make the building probably haunted.

Aisha’s parents disowned her over her forbidden relationship. Tom’s mom can’t quite look past the hijab (which she doesn’t wear in her future mother-in-law’s presence), the morning and evening prayers, or the general stigma of Muslims in the US. She’s got exactly one friend in the city, and is fighting a constant internal battle about which pieces of her upbringing to cling onto and which to discard for conformity. She believes strongly in family, and since her own won’t have anything to do with her, she clings with everything she has to the hope that her MIL really is trying to change and accept her.

Editor-turned-writer Porsak Pichetshote touches a lot of raw nerves with this opening issue, and I can only imagine it will get more intense as we get deeper. We don’t see a lot of cross burning, but the racist tones are hard to ignore. An elderly neighbor slamming his door in Aisha’s face for, y’know, saying “Hi” in the hallway. Sweet little MIL sways from casual (offering to teach Aisha to cook a ham) to pretty overt (referencing the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons and stoning of children), racism and xenophobia.

Pencils by Aaron Campbell are really intense in a gritty, hyper-real, dirty way that calls back to Ben Templesmith and Dave McKean. The characters are almost photo real. The monsters are creepy and twisted and weird. Jose Villarubia keeps the art grounded with a surprisingly light, desaturated palette.

Infidel is off to a strong start. There’s a great balance between character development and horror elements. This is a book that will constantly keep you on your heels, setting up for the king hit.

Infidel #1 (of 5), published by Image Comics, releases 14 March 2018. Written by Pornsak Pichetshote, art by Aaron Campbell, color by Jose Villarrubia, letters by Jeff Powell. It reaches FOC today, February 19th, so get your orders in to your local comic shop!

Brendan M. Allen

Brendan Allen has probably had more jobs than you would reasonably believe. Dog trainer? He’s done it. Flooring contractor? You bet! EMT? Army NBC specialist? Road dog for a Celtic rock band? Yes, yes, and och aye! Now he reads comics and writes about them. It's a rough gig. You can follow Brendan on Twitter @SaintAmish where he mostly tweets about comic books and cystic fibrosis awareness.