Published on June 16th, 2015 | by Lauren McPhee0
Roche Limit: Clandestiny #2 Review
Issue two is more of the starter point for this series, tumbling out of the foundations that were set up in issue one. To recap: Sasha and her team initiate the readers’ return to Dispater 75 years after Roche Limit: Anomalous and venture both into the abandoned city and the forest grown up about the mines. Between these two areas lies a wasteland, where their ship crashed down and stranded itself. The story is then one of horror, mystery and dreams haunted by both creeping growth and deathless A.I., with our cast trapped between the two.
The first trick out of the bag of horror tropes comes early but it also doesn’t disappoint; lurking in the city are black and shapeless techno-organic looking monsters that eat brains. One gruesomely takes down one of the gun-totters with a splay of skull fragments. Death has moved on from ideas of criminal justice, swift and clean from the barrel of a detective’s gun: it is now the stuff of nightmares, served by unknown enemies of inhuman irrationality. Dreams have taken a very ugly turn in this series. But it’s still a question of knowing what we want, and chasing visions.
“We are compelled,” Sasha tells us, and she speaks very firmly to the heart of this series. Langford was compelled by his vision of the future. Roche Limit is the result of his compulsion. Each character in this series shares that impulse to forge ahead, but history shows that the intensity of compulsion can overreach and lead to unpleasant realities, with things not how we imagined. The forest grown up around the mines induces illusions of the things these characters want most, similarly to the effects of the drug Recall to inhabit memories. Sasha sees the memory of her husband while Kim remembers her baby named Andrew. To them, these people appear real.
The appearance of ‘Hello Danny’, the artificial intelligence, into this mix is perhaps the strangest thing of all, however. Abandoned on the planet Dispater instead of being decommissioned as he was supposed to be, and allied to another, Danny offers his aid to the stranded explorers. Although he saves Elbus and claims he can help the crew repair their ship, Danny’s ulterior motives are already eluded to in the comics’ title. After warning the humans that the forest presents a danger to them, he nonetheless observes Stockton pursue a vision to the forests’ edge while the others sleep. Dreams, he says, are a burden. The things we want are exactly what we shouldn’t have. But he’s not stopping the pursuit of dreams in humans, though he cannot experience them himself.
Dreams, memories, cycles and returns. The themes of this comic are re-combined in this series with regrowth that occurs over time and nightmares that lurk in the shadows: the unconscious mind can be invoked by the imagery of both these ideas. Nor does the dichotomy of nature/technology present either as a safe solution to the dangers that inhabit the Roche Limit Colony. Horror can be bred from both.
As this comic settles into its new story and style, it continues to be invocative and haunting. Kyle Charles’ art is visceral and filled with presence, blurring the lines between dreams and reality. The horror is truly stuff of nightmares, but so too are nightmares bleeding into experiences of horror. It gives the story the elusive trappings of a dream turning bad, of a beauty that is unsettling. This is combined with the colours of Matt Battaglia in the flush of mystic purple that paint the pages. The darkness of the hues softens the edges of shadows but at the same times, stretches them, so that light in fact shines on very little. It is a permanent twilight, a liminal drifting on the constant edge of dreaming.
This is a comic you read when you enjoy the trappings of mystery and realms of uncertainty. It keeps you in the dark for the purpose of exploring the darkness. It then asks questions about your state of mind. The horror is material, but so are visions and memories: they form the structure and boundaries of the story that the characters must navigate. You, as reader, enter into an imaginary world it feels like you could almost touch. It all rests on the wish to turn our dreams into reality.