An alluring sense of despair leers over Out in the Open. Its dystopian premise of a young boy escaping his violent village illuminated with tense, warm colours pulls you between optimism and pessimism. Javi Rey‘s visual interpretation of Jesus Carrasco‘s novel is a delicately confident read, essentially amounting to little more, story-wise, than an extended chase sequence between our naive, inexperienced young boy hero. Fleeing his violent home and chased by bloodthirsty bandits only serves to emphasis his innocent, and how it’s ultimately snatched away from him as the chase becomes more intense with each chapter.
Rey separates the prose from the sequential medium to great effect. Throughout the comic, numerous scenes play out without dialogue. In their place, Rey allows the art, panelling and the character’s emotions to deliver the story. Rey’s art itself is an undeniable draw to the comic. The colours evoke a warm, melancholic tension as the nameless boy is forced to trek deeper into barren landscapes, helped by an also-nameless, old goat herder, as the only possible means of evading his past. Rey also displays a muscular approach for detailed, expressive characters, a key component for a story so reliant on visuals rather than words.
Out in the Open‘s chief message feels that of wringing hope from the jaws of despair. The nameless boy’s venturing into the desert and eventual relationship forged with the goat herder is filled with moments of minute maturing. From milking the goats to fetching water from a nearby well, these handsome instances culminate in the boy’s last act of maturing when the town’s bandits, lead by a villainous sheriff, track the boy and herder down for a final confrontation. Rey’s sublime visual pacing makes this climactic scene land with poignancy, particularly in the last, stirring page. Rey doesn’t skip on the more tangible elements of Out in the Open either. It balances between being a mournful character study and a deceptive thriller. A palpable sense of danger leaps off the pages as the villains chase after the boy and goat header, their multiple run-ins lending the comic an ebb and flow.
Grim yet ultimately heart-warming, Out in the Open is a marvel of a comic. Rey’s adaptation of Carrasco’s novel is a masterclass of visual pacing and tense atmosphere. Despite the morose danger that coils itself around the story, it knows when to place some welcome optimism in the young protagonist during its lighter moments. Rey’s visual prowess and Carrasco’s heartfelt depictions of discovering hope amidst dystopia make for a taught, resounding combination of narrative power.