Roche Limit Vol. One: Anomalous combines philosophy, science fiction, detective fiction, and yes a zombie apocalypse. Is it good?
Roche Limit TPB Vol. 1 (Image Comics)
The opening sequence of Roche Limit reminds me a lot of the original Bioshock. A wealthy man with a larger than life vision sets out to change the world and along the path it all goes wrong. The similarities end there. Where Bioshock examines the philosophy of human organizations, Moreci examines the ideas of fate, identity, and our perception of the world around us.
Each book except for the last one begins with the founder of Roche Limit, Langford Skaargred, breaking the fourth wall through an audio/visual recording where he addresses many of the aforementioned high-brow topics. However, he does use a number of the main characters to also address these topics and there is a significant plot line dedicated to self-discovery and what it means to be human.
Outside of the philosophy, Moreci and artist Vic Malhotra build a compelling world full of drug dealers, addicts, a protective Madam, and even a mad scientist. The world is seedy with good people few and far between. Even the characters who are relatable have been affected by the violent culture on Dispater, the planet where the colony of Roche Limit is located. One of the best examples of the unruly and rough culture is during an interrogation at the local watering hole. Bartenders are commonly used as information brokers as many a person will get too deep into his cups and spill his secrets to the bartender, and, for the right price, the bartender is willing to deal his secrets. Well, Moreci turns this trope upside down introducing a tight-lipped bartender who wants nothing to do with anyone who is not looking for a drink. It leads to a pretty intense scene with the threat of violence front and center. The world is extremely reminiscent of the original Total Recall, which Moreci honors with the name of the drug of choice for the inhabitants of Roche Limit.
Let’s dive into the storyline and characters. Moreci uses a slow build introducing a number of characters right off the bat who seemingly have nothing in common. The characters are introduced in multiple different storylines. It creates a disjointed narrative where it is a tad difficult to draw any connection to the characters. Moreci continues the multiple storylines through the second book, but he begins connecting the characters together bringing them into each other’s stories. (Interesting to note, this is one of the identity philosophical points Moreci has the characters discuss.) The characters’ connections through their individual stories allow Moreci to develop and flesh out the characters, specifically Alex Ford, who is the only truly dynamic character in the book. He is a conflicted soul caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place with no true friends. However, he does have a conscience and when Bekkah’s sister, Sonya, comes asking questions he decides to help her out. The other characters are very static and one dimensional. They have their roles to play and play them they do. This is not to say the other characters are boring; on the contrary, they are quite intriguing especially Moscow, who has embraced nihilism.
Once Alex Ford teams up with Sonya, Moreci is able to dive into the detective fiction as they begin working the filth of Dispater, but they are not alone in their detective work. All of the other storylines are doing detective work of their own, but all looking for the same thing, Bekkah. The separate but similar paths build methodically toward a convergence of characters. The further you read the quicker the pace, as Roche Limit spirals out of control with many of the denizens losing their minds. Moreci introduces plenty of twists and turns in the hunt for Bekkah from the shocking to the horrifying and everything in between all the while pushing the story forward.
Vic Malhotra’s artwork is very reminiscent of Mike Mignola or Paul Azaceta. The backgrounds usually lack detail using simple lines to create mountains, stone structures, building outlines, or details of an alley way. He focuses more on the foreground detailing character interactions, discoveries, and actions. He uses quite a few different camera angles to detail multiple viewpoints during action sequences which aids the pacing and adds tension to these high-stress scenes. Justin Boyd uses colors to maximize emotional effect. He uses a lively red when first showcasing the brothel to illicit passion, a yellow to signal caution when Alex unveils to Sonya one of his secrets, and a light purple to indicate a subdued sadness when Sonya reveals how her father died.
I was a little disappointed that the issues appeared fully intact with blue maps describing Dispater and Roche Limit embedded within each issue. These pages would have been better served acting as a map in the beginning of the book much like fantasy novels do or being placed in the back of the book as a type of index. They provide valid information, but in the trade they take too much away from the story. On the other hand, I did enjoy how each book was bookended by a newspaper article giving further insight into a different character as well as the current state of the world. They fully immersed you in the world of Roche Limit.
Is It Good?
Roche Limit Vol. One: Anomalous started off very slowly with disparate storylines that did not allow you to learn enough about one individual character to make an attachment or get a grip on what kind of world Roche Limit is. However, Moreci gradually unveils the main protagonist and begins weaving the multiple storylines together addressing multiple philosophical questions as well as providing good suspense and character development. Malhotra’s artwork is good although there are a few mishaps including one where Sonya appears to be pulling a gun out of the fabric of her shirt. It suits the noir nature of the comic focusing on character interactions rather than the background of Roche Limit. This was definitely an interesting read. It discusses fate and individual identity right alongside a detective story set in the gutters of outer space. If you are looking for an intellectual discussion with good suspense and action this is the book for you.