When local artist Kyle Charles took up the artistic mantle of the best-selling comic book series Roche Limit, he wasn’t just subbing in for a fellow artist, but supporting a new direction for the comic.
Michael Moreci’s nebulous and futuristic three volume graphic novel arc Roche Limit is a space exploration tale, described as a melding of Alien and Bladerunner. The series, which ended this month, does an excellent job of harmonizing the high action sci-fi moments with the not-so-subtle noir genre.
Charles took over the series for volumes two, Clandestiny, and three, Monadic, after his friend, local artist Vic Malhotra, had to end his contributions due to scheduling conflicts. Moreci also needed someone to approach the action and emotional story telling a little differently, Charles says.
And, as it turns out, Charles’ life took a different turn as well. During his work on Clandestiny Charles went through some extreme personal experiences that made a substantial impact on his art.
“Life just got flipped upside down for me,” he says. “I had to go through getting over a loved one’s death and mild bouts of homelessness while I was drawing the book. Some of that book was drawn on the streets. Some of it was drawn on road trips, friend’s places or random people’s kitchen tables while I was looking for sleep. It was a really weird and wild time.”
Charles truly believes that the intense experiences he had to face while working on the second volume of the series,“served the story best, visually.
“I obviously didn’t know what Mike was going to be writing, but with everything going on I felt more compelled to take risks,” he says.
The three-volume graphic arc begins with Roche Limit, which follows the story of Sonya and her search for her missing sister Bekkah on the crime-ridden colony of Roche Limit. Soon, it’s discovered that Bekkah’s disappearance is linked to the insidious Black Sun cult that has plans to induce the colony into a maelstrom of carnage.
Clandestiny picks up 75 years after the events of Roche Limit and follows a crew of science and military personnel on a desolate planet plagued by the same malignant and murderous entity in Roche Limit.
The second installment differs in both the art and the narrative of its predecessor, but it also develops that contorted reality feel that Roche Limit introduced. In simplest terms, the narrative and Charles’ hallucinatory visuals will mess with your mind.
About a quarter of the way through Clandestiny, the story takes a very outlandish turn and the art starts to express a very psychotropic tone—character’s anatomies become hazy and the environment starts to blur and almost disintegrate.
“I’m not shy about saying it, I take psychedelics,” Charles says, laughing.
“I guess I’m a fringe sort of artist. I read the script and I knew it was going somewhere and I wanted my mind to go somewhere else with it. So, I indulged and tried to find the false sense of reality the script was providing. It worked in the end.”
At the same time, every piece of Charles’ artistic arrangement is purposeful. For example, the line work, layout, and separating panels become very strange and dissonant as the events of Clandestiny unravel.
“There’s a part in the book in issue three where the characters find Stockton [a philanthropic main character in the series] dead in a tree. The pages leading up to it, if you pay attention, become more and more filled with madness and this intense feeling of reality coming apart at the seams,” Charles says.
Monadic, concludes the story by following the events of Clandestiny with the last remaining human city fighting for survival. The art and tone in Monadic somewhat rewinds back to the first volume, allowing that familiar noir feeling.
“I try to let my personal experiences influence and give motive to my art and line work,” Charles says. “Like, in Monadic I become more stable and life calmed down so my line work becomes more stable, stern, and heavy while the characters are brushed in a much more fluid and natural. I also felt too that those two things working against each other would make this eerie feeling of reality kind of being an illusion.”
While he enjoyed his time working on Roche Limit, Charles is looking forward to moving on to other projects. One of the latest pitches he is working on is called Cosmic Frankenstein, which he describes as a “Ziggy Stardust space opera.”
“I’m happy that the series is done,” he says. “When you’re in the middle of it, these projects become part of your life. I think we did what we wanted with the story. That’s what I love about Roche Limit. It had this very finite feeling that couldn’t really last longer than it did, but it will always be with me.”