I love graphic novels. Love ‘em, love ‘em, love ‘em. When I was a kid, I’d look over the comics in the newspaper every day even though I didn’t yet know how to read. When I got older and inherited my uncle’s mouse-nibbled stash of superhero and Archie comic books from the 1970s, that love deepened. And when I discovered how thought-provoking and literary graphic novels could be in addition to being fun and beautiful—well, I was smitten.
Infidel is right at that crossroads between literature and art. The art, drawn by Aaron Campbell and colored by award-winning colorist Jose Villarrubia, is the stuff of nightmares even before you consider the subject matter. The story itself will linger with you like a bad dream, but make you think, too.
We meet Aisha waking up from what she thinks is just the latest nightmare in a string of restless nights that have plagued her since moving into a building still being repaired after a deadly explosion. Sure, it’s a little creepy to live in a place that still has exposed beams and such a bad reputation—the explosion was apparently the result of a botched terrorist attack by a former resident—but the price is right, and Aisha is hoping to help mend bridges between her fiancé, Tom, and his mother, Leslie, while getting to know Tom’s daughter, Kris, better.
But the nightmares get more and more vivid, sneaking up on Aisha during the daytime, too. When tragedy strikes, it’s up to Aisha’s best friend, Medina, to figure out what is driving these increasingly violent phantoms. She gets a hand from some of the building’s other multicultural residents, but other neighbors, still suspicious from the last deadly incident, refuse to help.
The phantoms are terrifying but it’s the racism and fear that really drives the horror here, and makes Infidel unnervingly prescient. Infidel was originally published as a complete volume in 2018, drawing upon the kind of pervasive racism—from microaggressions to overt bigotry—that has plagued Muslims and Middle-Easterners for years. That real-life message, though, might be even more timely now as racial tensions and police brutality are (hopefully) reaching a tipping point.
Ghosts are scary, Infidel tells us, but people’s hidden and frightening prejudices can be even scarier.