"Roche Limit: Clandestiny" picks up 75 years after the events of Volume One with completely different protagonists and problems. Sasha and her crew have been hired to make a delivery on the presumably uninhabited remains of the Roche Limit colony, but things aren't as quiet as they first appear. If this issue is any indication, "Clandestiny" will be an action-heavy complement to its brainier, wordier predecessor. Writer Michael Moreci turns out a leaner script than in previous issues, while newcomer Kyle Charles creates a moody, sketchy atmosphere that feels pregnant with danger. A less philosophizing but no less challenging read, "Roche Limit: Clandestiny" #1 is a sure-footed start to the new arc.
While existential treatises were a part of the appeal for "Roche Limit," it's refreshing to see Moreci write less indulgently here. Instead of delivering lines like "I've embraced the truth that there are no answers to be found, not from God, not from Nature" or "Dreams endure. They exist deep within us," the characters in "Clandestiny" are concerned about their "shitty old equipment" and repairing the ship. They don't have time for contemplating the human condition or explicating their hopes. The dialogue is neater and more practical as a result. The human drama instead comes from the crew's light bickering and unexpected crash, as pent-up arguments get dropped once things get scary.
If that setup sounds very standard, that's in part because it is. However, Moreci and Charles weave in plenty of questions about these characters to complicate the story. Sasha, the ostensible protagonist, is as full of mysteries as she is full of purpose. Her hallucination and her old family video both suggest layers that will unravel in the coming issues, and the opening sequence lets readers know that things will indeed go very wrong. Though the rest of the crew isn't quite as complicated as Sasha, none of them read as caricatures. This bodes well for the rest of the arc.
Kyle Charles and colorist Matthew Battaglia create a sci-fi atmosphere that's light on tech and heavy on mood. Charles plays less with science than he does with scope; the panels are either sweeping across the planet or intimately squared on the characters' faces. This approach is especially effective while they're on board the ship. Most of those pages are spent talking, and Charles uses perspective to make the scenes feel like introductions to each speaker. The panels get up close and personal with the crew members, so that the filler conversations feel instead like something the reader should remember going forward.
Battaglia's color scheme, however, really gives the book most of its ominous feel. Both the ship and the colony look locked in an eternal dirty twilight. Sunset and evening colors are sprinkled with gritty ink, so that this world feels raw and lovely. The spaceship feels like the bowels of an industrial tanker, and the abandoned colony looks ready to be consumed by darkness or fire at any moment.
If this first issue is any indication, "Roche Limit Clandestiny" will definitely be a leaner animal than its predecessor. I'm quite curious to see how it will draw out the series' themes in such a different atmosphere and, more importantly, I want to see what these characters do next.