Published on November 26th, 2014 | by Lauren McPhee


Roche Limit #3 – Review

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Everything gradually becomes clearer – like watching the stars appear as your eyes adjust to the dark of the night sky – and with each issue, the story of Roche Limit links together, like a layering revealing connections that were always there, but that you just couldn’t see before. In Roche Limit #3, from setting, to characters, to themes, it almost feels like we’re retracing our steps through the story and the colony looks a little more familiar and we’re starting to notice things we didn’t see before.

Roche Limit 3b

In this issue, patterns and repetitions really start to become visible on the surface, through the artwork and story. There are the structural markers – Langford’s narration, the Roche Limit infographic, the articles and papers at the end – which repeat each time, but in addition are symbolic doubles, repeated phrases, and mirrored images. However, this is more than the same thing over and over, rather the comic reads like it’s in rotation: each issue is a coming around again, another orbit around a central theme.

This issue starts, as the others, continuing Langford’s narration as he stands alone in swirls of light, or perhaps memory. The art by Malhotra and Boyd in this section encapsulates Langford’s isolation in spiralling light over muted colours with the vastness and silence of falling snow. All is quiet apart from the voice over which plays as a recording, as a message left behind. Langford repeats the quote from Moscow last issue: “The night sky hides the world but reveals a universe.” Then as he dons a spacesuit and looks up through an airlock, the sky above is framed like a blue planet, reflected in the visor of Langford’s helmet. Before, when he looked towards Roche Limit, Langford saw his visions but not the world it rested on, nor himself, and so he was unable to predict or prevent its downfall. As he launches himself out of the airlock and into space, it’s not clear where he is going, or if we will see or hear from him again.

Roche Limit 3d

Next, the infographics repeat, filling in the names of places we already know and have visited. I like how the infographics serve as a break from Langford’s displacement to the fixed, located world of Roche Limit and thus also, the setting wherein the ongoing action is taking place. And in naming the slums, the mines and the Moira Tech Company, the world of Roche Limit is brought into clearer focus. Nothing is really new in this comic, everything is revealing itself.

The main story, then, continues on with Sonya and Alex’s investigation to find Bekkah, except this time, Sonya is leading things. We are now clearly located in the slums, thanks to them being named, and the incredible grimy art that follows on from issues prior. Sonya has a few excellent moments in this scene, which contest Alex’s snarkiness last issue, while also building to her big scene later on. Whereas last issue, we learned of Alex’s background and his motivations for being on Roche Limit, this time we get Sonya’s and it’s all tied in. I’m also really pleased to see her being given more equal time in the comic and that this issue places her in equal relation to Alex and to the other characters in terms of her narrative quest and motivations.

Roche Limit 3c

Further entangling things, as the case continues a couple of characters from last issue appear, the man and woman who visited the bar also searching for one of the missing girls. They jump in on the end of one of Sonya’s sentences, setting themselves up in a parallel narrative. Then, on one page, featuring art alone, the two narratives converge in mirroring panels, soaked in an acid dream wash, before diverging, taking alternative paths into the underground workings of the colony. Sonya and Alex go after the goon from the mines last issue, who leads them back to Dr. Watkins while the other couple go after the homeless kids and the mysterious glowing orb they found.

This circular nature of the narrative is both striating and revealing. At first, it can seem dissociative as threads continue to unravel and diverge, but each issue reveals new connections that were underlying the surface, bringing new knowledge to bear. Moreover, despite lacking a linear narrative, Roche Limit doesn’t feel slow or laboured; with all the action going on, the story runs quite quickly. However, you might feel that a lack of direction hinders things, as the comic often poses more questions than it answers, but to do so is to miss the point. Roche Limit is not something you can rush through to the end. After all, all circles end where they begin.

Ultimately, what issue three gives us is a real understanding of the cyclic nature of this comic, of its doubles and mirror images, of its repetitions and rotations. Roche Limit is a story in orbit around the central themes of dreams, memory and vision, reflecting on the cycles of human nature and history bound by our greatest ambitions and desires. It doesn’t take much for its gravity to pull you in.

Lauren McPhee
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