Review - Pariah #1-3

It's not easy being different. Outcasts. Your contrasting features make you out to be an easy scapegoat when things really go wrong. It's not always the case that you're an outcast by choice though, a topic addressed in the title Pariah from Sea Lion Books.

The title is written by Aron Warner and Philip Gelatt, with art and lettering by Brett Weldele and plays out in a dystopian future where a group of super-intelligent individuals known as Vitros are feared as terrorists. Of course, their encounters with the general public don't go so well for them. Warner knows a thing or two about outcasts, as he was the producer for Shrek.

The first issue focuses on Brent Marks, a vitro in denial of his uniqueness but able to harness his intelligence capably. He's faced with the typical disdain and discrimination often present in the cases of different people. Marks is currently teaching classes at school, where an encounter with a bully turns out differently than he had hoped.

The second issue focuses primarily on Lila Ellerman, who's dating Brandon (another vitro). She's accompanied by a group of vitros who were working on a top secret project for the Magnus Corporation, only it turns out that it was a setup of sorts. The resulting fallout forced Lila and her group into hiding, struggling to defend themselves in the forest from an onslaught of military forces hellbent on capturing them.

Lila clings to a hope that a Vitro named Maudsley can be their savior, but his reputation is for being something of a loose cannon. Their hiding is interrupted by another Vitro (Franklin Hyde), presenting what amounts to be an olive branch to the Vitros, asking they surrender quietly to prevent further bloodshed.

The third issue introduces the reader to Robert Maudsley. Maudsley is one of the first Vitros and is something of a maniacal mastermind at heart, content with manipulating those around him to do precisely what he wants. It's this ability that brings together Bill, Jane, Andy and Samuel in a scene that truly showcases his sense of depravity. That same ability also leads to an encounter with Hyde regarding an interesting business proposal.

Warner and Gelatt's writing in Pariah essentially reads like the early issues of X-Men, only instead of mutants they're Vitros. Instead of an array of powers including optic blasts, telekinesis and accelerated healing, there's just the power of immense intelligence. Maudsley is looking to become Magneto, while Marks could just as easily be Professor X. Granted, they've yet to meet each other and don't share a similar relationship, but their stances on Vitros are becoming clear to the reader.

What's more is that there's a disjointed feeling across the first three issues. This isn't as strong when reading an individual issue, but the title is three issues in and there's already a lot going on with a few thin threads keeping it all together. The only overarching plotpoint so far is that the vast majority of the world hates Vitros, but their reason for hatred isn't exactly clear. Is the world worried that, all of a sudden, Vitros decided to use their intelligence to become terrorists?

Weldele's art is almost pastel in presentation and looks like a watercolor painting. Characters are defined by bold, black lines, but there's not much else in the way of detail in either characters or backgrounds. Some of the faces look inhuman at times and the entire work has something of a filter on it.

Marks is somewhat unremarkable as a character, but I can see that he'll probably prove valuable in later issues. Lila is probably most easy to relate to, as she seems to be a gung-ho type that will do anything to ensure that the Vitros with her survive. Maudsley will most likely play out to be the villain, content in the knowledge that his intelligence as a Vitro is a cut above other Vitros, and most likely wants Vitros to rule the world. The verdict's still out on Hyde, but he'll most likely be playing both sides in the Vitro/human conflict.

The first three issues are interesting, but haven't quite got me hooked just yet. Marks, Lila and Maudsley are all distinctly different in their reliance on their Vitro ability, but so far it seems like that's the only thing connecting them. It would be nice if the fourth issue had them encounter one another or evidence something more of a connection.

The issues are available in stores now (previews from issue 3 below).