Monday, 25 November 2019

In Review - Schism: Act One from Aroha Comics.

Schism: Act One

Written by Mark Abnett.
Art by Chris Connelly.
Colours by Dom Regan.
Cover Colours by Ellie Wright.
Letters by Rob Jones.
Edited by Jenny Abnett.

Full Colour - 28 pages - £4.00

This is what the summary reads on the back page of the comic:

'The Earth shook and twisted.
New lands arose and the old were destroyed.
When man's technology betrayed him the Earth released a fever which was to change him forever.
So man created something else..
This is the story of the SCHISM.

Adriana Solero Hunter guards the walls of Olot.
The last remaining settlement in snow covered Spain.
She has been pushed to breaking point.
Controlled and corrupted by those around her. She will reclaim her life.
This is the story of her death.'

The Review - I met Mark Abnett the writer of this comic and one of the leading lights of Aroha Comics at the recent Lakes International Comics Festival in Kendal. He is launching a new small press/indie comics company and is full of enthusiasm for the medium and the scene.

The cover communicates a moment of loneliness in a strange environment. The lone female against the background of a broken moon with a starfield background has a sense of poignancy and the suggestion of a brief respite in a conflict that works well. The neon title running down the vertical outside edge of the cover also seems straight out of an Image Comics playbook and piqued my interest.

Page one (as above) makes use of the technique of dropping the reader straight into the action. A cybernetic bear looms over the female hero and revs the reader up ready to read onwards. This fight sadly lasts less than two pages and is followed by another two pages of our hero Adriana laying under the weight of the slain bear. I would have loved to have seen more choeography in this fight, more to prove the danger and more to set Adriana out as a character through this conflict. What follows are a series of pages with her unconscious/dead/near death or under the knife in an operating theatre. I feel like the character needed more establishment before she dove into a coma. One of the pages shows a truck travelling through a snowy city and lends little to the story or mood and is a little dull and lifeless.

The story takes a number of twists and turns and jumps in time and you are clearly not meant to understand or learn the true nature of Adriana's reality as she drifts through dream (?) states. She is grappling with her own sense of being and place and time and the reader is also purposely lost. This jumping in and out of the timeline is counterpointed by the use of plain white panels. I'm not certain that they worked in this and I found them somewhat of a jolt visually and the story more than a little confusing. This may well change on release of issue 2.

When playing with multiple venues/realities you need solid and consistent art and colouring. In my opinion the art is not quite up to the required standard for a story of this type. Adriana has a look that changed a couple of times and I'm still not sure who is who. There are a couple of colouring inconsistencies in hair colour for example that also have me wondering who is who. In fact I'm left wondering in general what is what throughout this issue one and have been flicking backwards and forwards trying to spot names so I can work out identities. I'm really hoping that it explains a lot of what has happened in the next issue. 

I must also admit to some real issues with the interior colours. Many of the pages make use of a blaringly eye-stinging single color. The green in the medical centre sequence, the red of the flashback pages and bluey/purple of the barracks sequence. There is very little nuance to these pages and they hit you in the face with a single colour much too obviously. I'm fairly certain that this is used to break up the realities but it is far too obvious and sudden for my eye.

I'm going to hazard a guess and say that this story would work much better as a standalone graphic novel. This first issue is really confusing and the art isn't strong enough to support the subtleties of the intended plot. I think that Mark is trying to weave something multi-layered and complicated here that would be serviced with better art and colouring and a longer format. Some of the pages feel a little rushed off - an example of this is below with the explosion effect.

I do however thoroughly applaud this writer's attempts at a big epic venture and will watch for more from him in the future.

You can find out more about this comic and this new company at and on Twitter @arohacomics

Many thanks for reading.

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