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‘Outlast’ Comic Issue 1 Review: Meet the Pauls

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Video games have given us enough frighteningly awful corporations over the years that we can actually measure how evil they are by determining its place on the spectrum. A Spectrum of Evil, if you will. If you’re trying to form a picture of what that might look like in your mind’s eye, I like to imagine an aggressively hateful rainbow. Scattered about this spectrum, we have an assortment of fictional corporate entities that were — or continue to be — total jerks.

Among these faceless international conglomerates run by morally bankrupt people-shaped monsters is the mischievous Murkoff Corporation and its obviously evil, teeth-shaped logo. It’s the reason why Outlast plays like a found footage reimagining of Condemned when it could’ve easily been a somewhat spooky Stanley Parable.

Murkoff is responsible for the atrocities this series exposes us to — except, maybe, for that one inmate we meet in the original game as he shamelessly, uh, displays his affection for corpses. I have a feeling that guy was broken long before he ended up at Mount Massive Asylum.

Now, Murkoff isn’t the worst name you’d find listed on the Spectrum of Evil, but it is pretty bad. Disguised as a charity organization, the company secretly experimented on patients, empowering some while killing others, and effectively treated its employees like prisoners. It’s no Umbrella Corporation or Horzine Biotech, but Murkoff’s sinister deeds are comparable to Armacham from the F.E.A.R. series, which also covertly experimented on scores of people, albeit for different reasons.

Still, where series like Resident Evil, Dead Rising and F.E.A.R. have had at least a decade to show us the inner workings of the organization behind much of the bad stuff that happens in the games, Outlast debuted in 2013. We know the Murkoff Corporation is wicked, because we’ve seen what they’re willing to do, the lives they’re willing — eager, even — to sacrifice, and the ultimate result of their vile acts.

Other than that, the company is largely a mystery.

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That’s where the new five issue comic Outlast: The Murkoff Account comes in, to finally acquaint us with the real, and surprisingly vicious, Murkoff Corporation. It accomplishes this, in addition to bridging the gap between the first game and the upcoming sequel, by focusing on Paul Marion and Pauline Glick, aka “The Pauls.” What makes this duo special is their shared occupation as two agents of the Murkoff Insurance Mitigation Department (MIMD).

What that department does is fairly self-explanatory, but its role is to respond to incidents before they’re made public with the goal of minimizing the economic fallout. As Pauline explains to a frightened psychotherapist in the first issue, “We’re not here to save anybody.”

It makes perfect sense that Outlast would approach the issue of needing to expand upon the world they introduced us to three years ago with a “bridge episode” comic that doesn’t only star two corporate-trained sociopaths, but pairs their startling coldness with an art style by The Black Frog that employs a very minimal use of color.

Each monochromatic page has a dreary, washed out look to it, like the story was sketched on old newspaper. It’s conservative with its use of color, but the result is effective, as it forces the few colors — a bright yellow tie, crimson pools of blood — it does use to immediately stand out.

Much like the game it’s based on, in which bouts of exploration are broken up by frantic chases through the labyrinthine, blood-smattered corridors of Mount Massive, The Murkoff Account is paced in such a way that it goes from zero to sixty quickly and often with very little warning. It’s unsurprising, since Red Barrels enlisted Outlast writer J.T. Petty to handle the comic adaptation.

The comic never reaches the level of intensity as its source material — how could it? — but its first issue has more than enough meat to it to maintain interest as Petty and Co. gradually immerse you in a brand new story that promises to be just as creepy and unnerving as the games that inspired it. Fans of Outlast absolutely need to check this out. If that includes you, then you can sign up here to learn more about it.

In related news, I recently spent some time with the demo for Outlast 2, the playthrough of which you can find below for your viewing pleasure. It hits PC, PS4 and Xbox One this fall.

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