Published on January 7th, 2015 | by Lauren McPhee0
Roche Limit #4 – Review
I cannot think of a more relevant comic as we begin 2015, following on from the fear and bewilderment that was 2014; a year of war, illness, corruption and an extreme lack of empathy. Without being too despondent, it kind of feels like all the progress that we made last year was a half-step, not to be taken for granted but tenuous at best in the hands of the media, politicians and culture as a whole. Roche Limit provides both an insight into our recent past/present as well as a modicum of optimism to hold to as we push forward into the future, a future that could easily look as unwelcoming as Langford’s soured vision of the colony.
Issue #4 continues with Langford’s ongoing narration as he floats alone through space. He recalls the “Explorernauts”, more easily recognisable as their faces physically corrupt into the ghouls we remember from previous issues; his earlier partners, with whom Roche Limit was founded. Then the purpose of this narration starts to reveal itself. Whoever exactly is listening to or receiving this recording or narration is still unclear, except to readers themselves. And that is the saddest thing. As far as we know, we are the only ones to hear Langford’s final farewell.
Langford’s suit cracks, alarms flash, and he removes his helmet and presumably dies. But as he dies, he offers us a piece of advice: “Our only haven is the world we make”. Against the beauty of space, even as a man dies, Langford’s words seem optimistic until you remember what happened to the world he made. The final message is contradictory, bewildering and lost in the vastness of space. Langford preached exploration, vision, and searching beyond our perceived limitations, but after all his failures, he seems to urge whoever is listening to perhaps focus their attentions closer to home.
I am consistently impressed by the way that the art creates a sense of stillness and vastness that compliments Langford. A great deal of that is owed to the simplicity of the starscapes and the ever-so-slightly muted colours. We are not looking at a grand, showy cosmos of colourful nebulae and bright stars and satellites, but rather a sorrowful one; one that takes Langford in and almost seems to give him comfort at the end, despite everything. That is in contrast to the polluted pink, backgroundless frames of the Explorernauts as their pale faces become warped and they grimace at the reader; it certainly suggests that despite Langford’s mistakes, he was able to retain something of himself and that at least some part of his vision remained untainted.
We then return to Roche Limit were it seems that more than dreams and aspirations are being corrupted. Like the ghouls, users of recall are suffering from internal decay, as are the citizens of the colony, only at a slower rate. Watkins has the glowing orb, a soul, shining pure and bright while his own impurity is recognised and challenged by an escaped test subject. Dreams and their corrupted counterparts find literal representation in the evaporated souls of those exposed to the anomaly and the degenerating population, consumed by the Black Sun and spurned to violence.
The story moves on quite rapidly in this issue, and there’s a lot to take in. It’s always worth re-reading previous issues just prior to or after the latest as a way of circling back on what’s been shown to the reader before. There’s also seems to be less of Alex and Sonya in this issue, whose mission once they have Bekkah back is to try to restore her true self or identity, or soul. This requires returning to the anomaly as they circle back on their own story. Yet, although there is toughing concern shown for Bekkah, the characters are somewhat limited in their interaction as the story is forced to move on.
The art of the colony, however, is one of the most prized elements of this comic. The creators have so perfectly nailed the dark tone with a contrast of noxious pastels and dirty, broken-up shadows; it just feels like a venomous cesspool that is nonetheless addictive for all its dangers and debasement. Yet, the anomaly is beautiful and hopeful, although possibly deceiving and damning as such. There is a sense of futility to it all, especially as this issue begins with Langford’s suicide, but for Alex and Sonya it is still about Bekkah. They both have someone to care for whereas Langford never did.
By the end, we have learned a good many secrets of the anomaly and the colony. Of course, in a world like this one it’s hard to know what is true and what isn’t, especially when most characters aren’t worth a great deal of trust. But whether or not the answers are to be believed, it’s more about what the answers represent or how we choose to represent them. As Roche Limit falls apart readers are served with a distinction between purity and corruption, souls and rotting bodies, the possibility of the Black Sun behind the anomaly or nothing.