Fish and Cherries Productions

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Ronin Reads – Aama (Volumes 1 and 2)

Title: Aama (Volumes 1 and 2)
Author: Frederik Peeters
Artist: Edward Gauvin
Type: Graphic Novel
Genre: Science Fiction

Verloc Nim is… actually, Verloc doesn’t know who he is. He woke up on a barren planet with no memory of who he is or how he got there. However, he soon finds an apelike robot named Churchill with suspiciously human legs who gives him a journal written by none other than… Verloc Nim. The journal tells of how Verloc descended into substance abuse after his wife left him, taking his daughter away as well, before his brother picks him up and recruits him to a mission that might give his life purpose. Together with Churchill (who did not have human legs at the time), they travelled to the planet Ona(ji) to retrieve an away team and the project of one of the scientists known as Aama. They find the team holed up in a colony of their own making, but discover that the lead scientist on Aama left and took the project with her. Even more surprising is the mysterious appearance of a girl a week before the Nims’ arrival who bears a shocking resemblance to Verloc’s daughter, right down sharing to her muteness. While the Verloc of the past is working to discover what’s going on and what Aama even is, the Verloc of the present is trying to discover what happened to him, though he finds that he may not like the man he’s reading about.

This fledgling series comes to us from the hitherto unknown publisher Self Made Hero. So far, the company is making a good impression as it avoids a lot of the bad tropes that plague modern comics. The characters are diverse in race as well as personality and there’s no singular gorgeous body type for the women. Strikingly, though, attention isn’t drawn to this fact and there’s no big message about inclusion, it’s just how the world is. Or rather, worlds, as this is very much a time when travel between planets is as commonplace as changing a tire.

In fact, the handling of the sci-fi genre also stands out among other works. Everyone has their own take on sci-fi, but most of the time a lot of the conventions tend to repeat themselves, especially in robot and alien design. Not Aama. It seems to draw on the H.G. Wells school of thought in using sci-fi to depict the absurd and outlandish, yet still possible. From this absurdity comes most of the wonder of the future and the fear from the creatures the characters encounter. Monsters and robots aren’t drawn to look scary or impressive, but they still achieve that effect because of how foreign they look to our eyes and in doing so, capture the essence of the science fiction genre.

Of course, impressive visuals are nothing without good characters, but we got lucky on that front too. Both Verloc and his brother Conrad have a very interesting dynamic of being estranged for ten years and also being radically different. Verloc mires himself in humanity’s past and rejects all types of genetic modifications that are standard for other people, even having a child through natural intercourse, which is unheard of in his culture. Conrad, on the other hand, works for a corporation that seems about as ethical as Weyland-Yutani from the Aliens franchise and sees what most of us would consider wonderful and new as cynically mundane. Neither of them are perfect human beings, but there’s a sense that they’re trying to do right by their own set of values. The other characters are nice and colorful too, especially in the colony on Ona(ji), the one that stands out being the leader Professor Kaplan whose design resembles Jabba the Hutt forced into a human woman’s body.

The atmosphere of the comic is very surreal and cerebral. Several times, we’re treated to some of Verloc’s tortured dreams, which are both insightful and visually interesting. In a way, it reflects the series, seeing as both the characters and the plot are a mystery. We know where they all end (mostly), but we don’t know how they got there. Verloc’s dreams and anecdotes are interesting parallels to his future-self reading his own diary in that we’re learning about him just as he is learning about himself. One can only imagine how they would feel if they were left with no memories and were learning about their life from their own printed recollections. One must also wonder if they would be able to like themselves through those eyes.

Aama is only two volumes into its life cycle, but I’m really interested to see where it goes. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen anything so visually imaginative in a comic. Maybe Saga, but that still has roots in some conventions. Even if the ending turns out to be a complete wash, I highly recommend this story in its infancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to write more when the next volume comes out. I’m dying to know what happens next.

Posted under Ronin Reads

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