Cover to 'Infidel' #2. Art by Aaron Campbell and Jose Villarrubia/Image Comics

Cover to ‘Infidel’ #2. Art by Aaron Campbell and Jose Villarrubia/Image Comics

By Brendan F. Hodgdon. When I got the chance to review the first issue of Infidel prior to its release, I was impressed by the quality start to Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s horror tale. I finished that issue with a lot on my mind and a strong curiosity to see where the story would go. Now that the second issue of the series has landed in comic shops, I’ve found my curiosity has been both rewarded and amplified.

As we begin this second installment, we see that Pichetshote has gone the way of The Exorcist, as Aisha seeks to explain her unsettling visions through science. Armed with new medication and assurances that her experiences are just the result of bad chemistry, she tries to return to regular life. But just as in Friedkin and Blatty’s horror classic, the scientific explanation is doomed to fail. And that is when things go really off the rails for our beleaguered heroine.

Aisha’s escalating plight continues to give Aaron Campbell the chance to depict all sorts of ingenious and unexpected apparitions, which he does with gleeful abandon. Sometimes it’s single-panel glimpses of something unnatural, but by the end of the issue it’s entire pages of chaotic whorls of spectres. Whatever the situation, Campbell frames it wonderfully, aided nicely by Jose Villarrubia’s painterly colors.

But much like the first issue, Infidel’s hauntings would be much less effective without a meaningful thematic underpinning, which Pichetshote continues to ably provide. What’s interesting is where he seems to be taking it. Because while the first issue showed Aisha trapped between the bigotry and suspicion all around her and her own personal anxiety and self-doubt, in this issue her anxiety takes a strong lead. Indeed, this time around Leslie seems much more willing to be open-minded and supportive of Aisha. It’s clearly a struggle for her, in a way that it shouldn’t have to be, but overall Aisha’s future mother-in-law seems less of an antagonist than she did previously.

Interior page from 'Infidel' #2. Art by Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia, and Jeff Powell/Image Comics

Interior page from ‘Infidel’ #2. Art by Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia, and Jeff Powell/Image Comics

And yet Aisha’s visions continue. It speaks to the notion that just because direct hatefulness isn’t present doesn’t mean that the fear and paranoia that it causes will just go away. People subjected to racist and xenophobic judgment will continue to feel isolated and uncomfortable, and those feelings can easily curdle in a way that will feed the ugly cycle of hate and suspicion that leads to tragedy. But beyond that, it’s the way that Aisha’s feelings of isolation and insecurity feed into the plot that makes the whole experience of this story so visceral.

Even as Pichetshote and Campbell explore these upsetting and difficult themes, they smartly advance their plot. Like some of the best horror stories, they have crafted a mystery for their protagonist to solve, so Aisha isn’t just stumbling around waiting for the next jump scare. Indeed, they use the scares as ways to suggest answers to Aisha’s questions. The specters always seem to appear just as Aisha finds a new clue; even as she is drawn further down the rabbit hole of alienation, she gets closer to understanding what’s behind everything. She’s getting closer to understanding the root of her fear, even as that fear worsens her life around her.

The issue ends on an emotionally horrifying note, one that sets up some very upsetting consequences in the next issue. At this point, it already seems like Aisha’s been dragged down too far, and that there’s no way she could possibly escape the trap that her life has become. Of course, that only makes reading the next issue even more of an imperative.

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Pornsak Pichetshote.

Art by Aaron Campbell.

Colors by Jose Villarrubia.

Letters/design by Jeff Powell.

8 out of 10