In Meredith’s bleak world the ultimate sanction is to find oneself IND-XED – a societal classification that negates someone’s very existence. The subject becomes a non-person, their identity cancelled and their company shunned. Forced to leave her parents’ home as a result, Meredith makes her way to the City where she discovers other non-people living secret lives at the fringes of society. As their experiences begin to inform her understanding of her situation, Meredith struggles to discover exactly why she has become one of the IND-XED…
Calling something Kafka-esque is undoubtedly an overused comparative statement for a reviewer but in the case of IND-XED, from writer Fraser Campbell and artist Lucy Sullivan, it feels nonetheless a most appropriate one. Like Joseph K in The Trial Meredith is trapped in an existential labyrinth of injustice by forces beyond her control, the ambiguity and arbitrariness of her situation exacerbating the nightmare qualities of her predicament. Campbell ensures Meredith’s narration has a haunting quality to it; a despairing, internal monologue that parallels the loneliness of the situation she is trapped in. It’s perhaps most unsettling in a scene where she reflects on her help being rejected by a non-IND-XED citizen with tragic results; a sequence which is particularly chilling in its pacing.
Broken Frontier Award-winning artist Lucy Sullivan is the perfect fit for Campbell’s dark story. Sullivan’s visuals actively accentuate the oppressive quality of Meredith’s plight, also embodied in her restricted colour palette. Her style always has that somewhat contradictory element of feeling rooted both in a kind of abject realism and in something almost otherworldly too. It’s entirely appropriate in a world where one’s very sense of self can suddenly be pulled out from under them, sending them spiralling into an existence of uncertainty and hopelessness. Sullivan’s employment of light and darkness is exemplary in ramping up the tension and atmosphere of IND-XED, and her visual characterisation brings us directly into Meredith’s journey on a purely instinctual level.
Complementing Sullivan’s art Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering placement intuitively guides the readers’ eyes around the characters’ interactions and adds to the emotional impact of scenes with some inspired choices, particularly in one full-page illustration where Meredith’s flight of fancy daydream comes to life. Readers will take different things from the pages of IND-XED. They may see it as a contemporary parable on identity or an extended visual essay on defiance against the capricious whims of oppressive authority. But what is undeniable is how totally in synch this creative team are in bringing this stark and arresting narrative to disturbing life.
Fraser Campbell (W), Lucy Sullivan (A), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (L), Alisdair Wood (Logo) • Cabal Comics, £5.00 (print)/£3.00 (digital)
Review by Andy Oliver