(Michael Moreci/ Vic Malhotra/ Lauren Affe/ Ryan Ferrier; Image Comics)
Roche Limit #4 continues to be the most intellectually intriguing and thought provoking comic on my pull list. Michael Moreci’s script and Vic Malhotra’s art produce the most important issue in the series thus far with 22 pages that prepares the stage for a suspenseful finish to the first volume.
The introduction serves as cautionary foreboding and offers an introspective look into the Roche Colony’s founder, Langford Skaargred, as he floats off into the cosmos to his eventual, but willing death. Each installment of the series so far has included a monologue filled with existential themes and self-reflection by Skaargred, cluing us into the plight of the colony and his own fate. As he floats throughout the heavens, Skaargred makes the realization that his idea of science has been skewed his whole life. He’s been chasing the wrong ideas. He said when he was younger, he thought science was about discovery and pushing parameters “beyond fact,” but as he grew older, the more he recognized how things changed under his nose: “Science is the study of transformation.”
This complex topic is the heart of the first arc of Roche Limit.
Issue #4 couldn’t have come at a better time – just after New Year’s – a time where people make resolutions for things they want to change. Skaargred continues to talk about how the original “explorenauts” who helped build the Roche Colony have changed, despite being “monsters the entire time.” We learn that these are the people are behind the fundamentalist cult known as the Black Sun and are the ones referred to as the ghouls. These sorts of lines depict a fatalist theme that courses throughout the series, yet is contrasted by Skaargred claiming that we have to be the change in our world, that nothing is predetermined except for our tendency for folly.
This brings to the surface an interesting dichotomy of philosophies. Skaargred states that we have to be the ones to break from fatalist ideas that everything is predetermined. We have to change the worlds that we create for ourselves. We have to define our passions and cultivate what we love, but he points out that humanity is incredibly flawed because, “… fear and greed makes us weak.” We’re unable to cooperate to achieve true greatness because while there is endless possibility to change, that weakness tends to get in the way somewhere along the line.
While these themes may sound like something from a college English or philosophy course, Moreci’s script begs readers to challenge themselves, to reflect – to change.
Skaargred’s words are so important and entirely necessary because they reveal something inherently human. So often we become so obsessed and blinded by our passion and ambition that we forget the whole point of why we’re obsessed. The reason is right under our feet, but we’re too busy looking through a tunnel vision lens to notice until it’s too late.
The way Malhotra draws the cosmos and shapes the world of the Roche Colony depicts a broken system filled with broken people. Skaargred is so small and, despite his discoveries, so insignificant when shown floating through the expanse of the cosmos. We see the explorenauts transform into monstrous ghouls as time goes by. They become more radical and begin their clense of the impure. Alex continues to have less and less control of situations as they push him further and out of reach. And yet, the mysterious energy anomaly idles above out in the open, not disguised, but ignored by bent humanity until it too starts to change.
The story is so well written that like Skaargred said about our world, the comic begins to change right under our noses. It all begins with the energy anomaly. It is the reason for the change. It is poison. It’s the prime source of the drug, recall, that Alex manufactures. People are transforming, slowly. The energy anomaly is sapping the very essence of humanity from the people living on the Roche Colony – their souls. This becomes a major plot point after Bekkah is rescued by her sister, Sonya, and boyfriend, Alex, from Warren. The scientist, Watkins, has been studying the anomaly and its effects on humans, including various subjects that show signs of decay.
Roche Limit #4 breaks into the action, building suspense as tensions rise amongst the various parties in the Roche Colony: Moscow and the Black Sun start to take action in the form of violent upheaval, Warren is left, screwed out of a deal, Gracie is contemplative while making a new discovery, Alex and his crew are on board a spacecraft with Watkins to retrieve Bekkah’s soul. Newcomer colorist, Lauren Affe steps in for issue #4 and is able to make scenes fit together seamlessly by her color changes. For instance, early in the issue Alex receives a phone call to meet Warren to turn himself over in exchange for Bekkah. Affe makes use of warmer, angrier colors like red and orange to heighten the intensity of the scene. The following scene switches to Gracie philosophizing over the anomaly. Cool blue hues give this scene a calming, thoughtful atmosphere. The perspectives are changed using visual indications rather than captions and keep the story moving along without becoming confusing.
There is a lot that happens in this issue. Threads are braided together into a fluid, but still mysterious strand. The pacing of the action sequences and visual clues help balance out the dense dialogue and ideas that are represented in Roche Limit. The revelations discovered in this issue are critical to the characters in the story and what’s left is to see how they’re transformed. How about you, will you be transformed?