Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Pure science fiction heaven. I now see exactly why this won the prestigious Best Series of 2013 prize at Angoulême. As utterly bizarre and charming in its own way as perhaps the greatest science fiction graphic novel ever THE INCAL, yet without the existential farcicality and turbo paced freneticism of that particular classic, it won me over instantly. Possibly the highest personal praise I can pro-offer is it greatly minded me of Iain M. Banks prose, in the sense that we are presented with a highly complex and well developed universe and cast of characters, but there is a real sense of mystery to the plot which immediately draws you in. The art also, has a lightness of touch yet richness of detail which engendered a sense of real wonderment in me. Suspension of disbelief complete, this was a joyful thirty minutes reading indeed. For someone who likes his fiction with a futuristic twist, this is as close to nirvana as it gets.
Confusion abounds from the beginning as the story opens with our central protagonist, Verloc Nim, groggily waking up in what appears to be an impact crater in the middle of nowhere on a desert like planet. He's suffering from total amnesia but fortunately for him, and us, a cigar smoking robot monkey called Churchill is loitering nearby to pass Verloc his handwritten diary, allowing him to catch up on what the hell has happened to leave him isolated in such a curious predicament.
As Verloc reads he begins to remember his miserable life, losing the business he inherited from his father in a confidence trick, plus also his wife and daughter as he recalls his descent into depression and addiction. Furthermore, eschewing the medical advances of this future society he blamed for all his problems and indeed despised almost as much as he despised himself, he'd begun to physically unravel as well. All until his estranged younger brother, Conrad, the shining star of the family, asks Verloc to accompany him on a mysterious mission to another planet to retrieve a biological experiment called AAMA.
Fans of Frederick, who've already read the autobiographical BLUE PILLS, the enigmatic 'Tales of the Unexpected'-esque SANDCASTLE and the equally surreal PACHYDERME, will already know of his ability to craft and illustrate stories with an almost cinematic sense of pacing and scope, to display genuine emotional depth in characters both lovable and loath-worthy alike. This is probably his most complete and indeed accessible work for me, despite the genre which will probably limit its appeal to some people, although it really shouldn't. I am pleased the jurors of Angoulême and just European readers of bande dessinee in general, are able to appreciate greatness irrespective of its flavour. I am delighted also to report this is merely volume one in what I hope to be a long running epic.