(Jonathan Cape; US: 9 Jul 2012)
There’s hardly a lot to go on in “Connection Lost,” a new sci-fi webcomic drawn by UK comics writer and artist Hannah Berry. For a quick but intriguing three-pager built on a script by novelist James Smythe, Berry uses algae green tones and pale blues to establish an air of dread in the drafty corridors of a spacecraft. It lurches toward what appears to be a disintegrating Planet Earth when the story closes out abruptly. Berry is given far more room to shimmer in her 2012 graphic novel Adamtine, even if some questions go unanswered.
Following the perpetual rainstorms that soak the private investigator who mopes through her debut, 2010’s Britten & Brülightly, Hannah Berry’s Adamtine is a smaller, slimmer volume. It’s a modern tale and is far more claustrophobic than Britten‘s somber murder mystery, which is told in the shadows of towering buildings or from directly above, as if we’re monitoring restaurant meetings from light fixtures in the ceiling. The most frightening passages in Adamtine evolve on an inexplicably stalled underground train car, where the bulk of this horror story takes place. They’re bookended by flashbacks and by bits of a serial killer narrative that Berry allows to simmer steadily in the background.
The details surrounding Rodney Moon’s case in Adamtine are bizarre, and various figures mull the involvement of “boogeymen,” “monsters,” and “fiends” behind closed doors. The author teases fragments from her cast: there is talk of abduction, cryptic hand-written notes, and missing persons. “The courts believed him,” argues a charity worker of Moon. “They just didn’t believe him when he said they were taken by something other than human…”
What’s more unnerving than an interrupted subway ride home, particularly those trips halted for reasons that go undisclosed? The typical array of obstacles that prevent trains from advancing are bad enough, but mysterious delays tend to open the floodgates on anxiety, when our only view is of the blacked-out tunnels around us. And what of the other passengers? How long until the people around you fall apart? Panic is put to artful use in Adamtine, and Berry again explores a variety of distinctive visual perspectives in her second graphic novel (within the confines of a train car, that is).
Just as Britten & Brülightly stuns in its dark city streets rendered waterways by rain, and in ornate interiors, with infrequent splashes of violet or crimson tempering its damp mood, Adamtine is also aesthetically beautiful. Scrambling for an answer to all of its questions proves maddening, but awash in a limited set of watercolors, it’s all part of the book’s looming menace. Peril is everywhere in Adamtine, and Berry leaves a whole lot to speculation. Good news: On a creepy, stalled train, there’s nothing to do but think.