Roche Limit (Volume 1): Anomalous by Michael Mordeci and Vic Malhotra
Roche Limit (Volume 1): Anomalous is an excellent science fiction comic book and the first of a projected three volumes, though this first volume really does stand alone as a fully completed storyline: There is no cliffhanger, though future volumes will apparently take us back to the world of Roche Limit. The second volume is already available in trade, and the first issue of the third story arc has already been published. The story takes place in the future in a small colony on a small planet. The colony has been around for about twenty years, and there is already an extreme divide between the wealthy and the working laborers. In addition, though there is frequent travel between Earth and Dispater — the planet on which Roche Limit is located — more and more often citizens of Roche Limit are being refused return passage to Earth. Roche Limit is a decaying colony that is extremely dangerous and with a high drug dependency among its population.
There are mysteries within mysteries in this story, but the most straightforward part of the plot involves a missing young woman who is being sought after by her sister, a cop from Earth, and her ex-lover, Alex Ford, who created the drug “Recall.” Their search for the missing woman takes them further and further into the criminal underworld of Roche Limit, so in effect, this comic book is best described as SF-Noir. While their search is easy to follow, the intricacies of the underworld are difficult to understand: It’s quite a labyrinth they are following, and they are in the shadow of “Moscow,” the most powerful crime lord of the underworld.
There are multiple mysteries in this story, however. Another one of them includes the “Explorenauts,” the three visionaries who helped create Roche Limit with the lead funder Skaarsgard. They have gone missing, and the rumor is that they were killed, “overtaken by the hands of a lawless society.” We, however, find out what really happened as the book progresses. Theirs is a story of “vision and obsession,” between which “there’s a fine line,” observes Skaargard.
This comic is great for several reasons. First, the art is solid and veers from the dark look one would expect of noir to the beautiful starry-visions possible when the book leans back in the direction of science fiction. Secondly, there are fake articles, news reports, letters, and maps that supplement the comic book. We find out about the wealthy billionaire Langford Skaargard, the man who made Roche Limit possible through his funding and his visionary exploration. We see private correspondence from a doctor who is doing research that might just reveal the existence of the soul, but his work seems to be caught up in some odd cultish characters, as well as possible criminal activity. We see space maps of Depater and Roche Limit, and we get a history of the drug Recall and its invention by Alex Ford. Finally, there are often philosophical and contemplative sections by various narrators, including a reclusive Langford Skaargard.
What I like most about Roche Limit are the commentaries and their connection to the drug Recall. Recall is a fascinating creation because it allows one to experience memories that are better than our usual memories; Recall offers “the opportunity to inhabit [the best of one’s past] memoires, to, seemingly, relive them, flesh and bone. The sad truth is memory, as we know it, is limited. It can never replicate the electricity of a first kiss, the sensation of a lost lover’s embrace, or the way your firstborn feels in your arms. But Recall . . . can give you back these experiences — for a moment, however, brief, whether real or not, users say you are back.”
The philosophic commentaries that I like best are about topics such as memory, dream, perception, and the past. In the following passage, we are led to think about the choices we’ve made in our past and to consider whether the choices we have in the present and into the future diminish in quality compared to all the choices we had in our youth: “Choices. Unforgiving, relentless choices. Now, I know some people see it differently than I do. They call on destiny, or some divine architecture laying the groundwork for our lives. Like the scripture says, ‘You make plans and god laughs.’ And while I do think the universe does tie your shoelaces together every now and again, just to see you fall, our only fate is to lie in the beds that we make. Which isn’t always a bad thing. Pick a road, pick a path. But go on the wrong one once and, believe me . . . the forking paths get less and less appealing as you go.”
I could continue to give multiple quotations that grabbed my attention, and I have to say that is very unusual for a short trade comic book consisting of only five issues. But I found myself pulling quotation after quotation from the book, reading and rereading certain sections between the action-oriented scenes of the comic. The trade is a slim volume, but the extra articles really make the book take longer to read, feeling like you get more for your money, and they add to the world-building. Plus, the volume, as Image often does with first volumes in a series, sells for only $9.99, quite a bargain, particularly considering that Marvel puts out twenty-two page monthly comics that take five minutes to read and cost $3.99 (and more often than not these days, these comics consist solely of poorly written action sequences with a little witty Josh Whedon-lite dialogue). Image, as they so often do, provides quality art and quality writing in an aesthetically appealing trade edition for an equally appealing price. I highly recommend giving Roche Limit: Anomalous a try.