With MONADIC, the third and final instalment in Michael Moreci’s critically-acclaimed ROCHE LIMIT series just around the corner, we were fortunate enough to be able to sit down and have a chat with Michael and series artist Kyle Charles, who also provided the stunning artwork for the second arc, CLANDESTINY.
It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of the series here at the Big Comic Page, calling it “a noir-soaked sci-fi masterclass complete with twists, turns and dramatic, character-driven moments.” and “one of the most inventive, engrossing and unpredictable sci-fi comics in recent years“, so to say that were absolutely thrilled to be able to pick Michael and Kyle’s brains about what readers should expect from the final chapter would be a major understatement.
Here’s how the conversation went;
Big Comic Page: Before we get to Monadic, let’s talk a little about your creative relationship. How did the pair of you end up working together on Roche Limit?
Kyle Charles: I had finished ’68 and was probably able to do more of that series but opted out. Vic and I are friends, so when Roche Limit started I collected them. I loved the direction it was heading and what the team was doing, that’s when I started to campaign Mike to work with me on something. After months and months he agreed and we began to develop the idea that would become Time Served (a project that’s still happening over at Heavy Metal).
Things fell through with TS at first and we had nothing again, then the opportunity came for me to join Roche Limit with Vol 2 and of course I said yes. I had a hesitation at first only because Vic is a good dude and I didn’t want to piss him off by joining but everyone seemed to be okay with the transition and we moved forward. Now, we’re two volumes in and having a good time.
BCP: What is the collaborative process like between you? How much of the artistic side of the book is Michael’s vision, and how much is Kyle’s?
Michael Moreci: I think we make for a pretty simpatico team. After so many issues, I can pretty well visualize how Kyle is going to approach a page when I’m writing it. That doesn’t mean I’m not often surprised, and always pleasantly, But we speak a similar visual language, and I think our aesthetic are pretty well in line. So I know, when writing, that I never really have to hold back. I can do a little more complicated or risky stuff, and Kyle is right there with me. My scripts are pretty full, though they’ve gotten less and less because I know Kyle doesn’t need all that much direction anymore. He gets the visual language of Roche Limit just as much, if not more, than I do. And the reason for that is because he’s really made it his own. Clanedstiny lives and breathes because of what Kyle did to enrich those characters and that world—he made it all seem very surreal and human at the same time, and that’s no easy feat. And he’s taken that control of the story directly into Monadic.
KC: It’s pretty even, I know that sounds like a diplomatic answer but it’s accurate. There’s a few times in RLC that I went radical and changed some of the blocking or pushed the extremes of what Mike was writing but it was all in bounds and didn’t change the trajectory of Mike’s script. With ’68, I changed a lot, the script could afford the changes and I think it was necessary to enhance the story and I believe it did. With Roche Limit it’s all right there, we (Matt and I) can boost it’s narrative through atmosphere but we don’t need to rework the story like I did with ’68.
I’ve said it before, Mike is really open to taking artistic risks and it’s been beneficial for us. It allowed us to experiment which made it clear what worked and what didn’t. On Monadic we’ve scaled back and have taken a more traditional approach to layouts and color and it’s honestly been some of our best work yet.
BCP: How does it feel now that you’re poised to begin the final chapter? Excited? Anxious? Sad that it’s almost over?
KC: I’m excited, Roche has been good to us and I want to give fans of the book the best sendoff possible.
MM: I think a little bit of everything. I’ve said this before, but Roche Limit, to me, will always be the book that defined my career. It’s a real turning point for me in so many ways as I really pinned down what I want to do and how I want to do it. I’ve learned more writing Roche Limit-and challenged myself philosophically and politically along the way—in ways I never thought possible.
Because of that, I’m definitely feeling the void of no longer having any Roche Limit to write. I’ll miss this book, I’ll miss working with the great team, and I’ll miss the Roche Limit community of loyal/awesome readers, critics, and everyone in between. When the final issue comes out in June, I’m going to be truly sad, without question. But, at the same time, I’m eternally grateful that we were able to tell our strange, difficult, and sometimes messy sci-fi story on our terms, from start to finish. So no matter how bummed I get, it’s easy to get perspective and let the honest gratitude I have take hold.
BCP: What do you think makes Roche Limit stand out from the glut of other sci-fi comics on the shelves today?
MM: I love so many of the sci-fi books out right now—Nowhere Men, Invisible Republic, Low—we’re living in an era of terrific sci-fi, without question. But, that said, I think Roche Limit is the only book, among many that is tackling the corner of existential sci-fi which, to me, is one of the most rich and rewarding strains in the sci-fi tradition. While there are plenty of smart sci-fi books on the stands—I’m not saying Roche is any more smart or holds more merit, by any stretch—I can’t think of any that are aiming for the existential/spiritual wheelhouse like we do every month. We’re unapologetically cerebral, and the themes are no less than (wo)mankind’s relationship to the cosmos, to a higher power, and how we, as humans, can find inner peace in this world. We’re biting off a lot, but aiming for some kind of profundity is something that will always be present in my work. I might not always hit the mark but, damn it, I’m sure going to try.
BCP: There’s definitely a density to the series and its themes that could potentially put off some readers. Was there ever a temptation to “dumb down” any of the concepts in order to perhaps appeal to a wider demographic?
KC: I don’t know if it was dumbing down anything, but I feel like we tried to make RLC more accessible and honestly, I think that turned some people off a bit. The fans that read Roche Limit and love it know what they’re getting into. Obviously we deeply appreciate the audience we have but you always want to reach a wider one. Mid way through RLC we kinda said fuck it, let’s keep getting weirder and weirder. So we did.
MM: I don’t know about dumbing down, but I think there’s a pretty clear divide between Roche Limit and something like, say, Saga. Part of me, at times, considers simplifying—or, rather, streamlining things—the way Saga does. But the thing is, I like a certain amount of mess to my stories, writing and consuming. I’m actually irked by Saga sometimes because it’s always SO perfect. Everything happens for a reason that makes precise sense for the story and characters. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible feat BKV pulls off, and Saga is a terrific book. But I like being ambiguous. I like being obtuse, at times, and I’m definitely more interested in presenting the question—on a thematic level especially—than giving the answer.
At the same time, the concepts Roche Limit deal with are inherently messy—existentialism, futurism, spirituality. These are all challenging topics that, to do them justice, I couldn’t dream of simplifying. I wanted to go big in Roche Limit, that was my plan from day one. I wanted to tell the most intimate alien invasion story imaginable with themes that are as big as can be.
BCP: Okay, let’s talk chronology. When does Monadic take place in relation to the previous series?
KC: That’s hard to say without giving too much away. It takes place after RLC but Mike may be able to answer this a bit more confidently than me.
MM: After Clandestiny. How long after… you’ll just have to read to find out!
BCP: The first two series have utilised distinct genres alongside the world of science-fiction; crime noir in Anomalous; action horror in Clandestiny. What’s the “genre” for Monadic?
MM: It’s definitely more of a throwback to the first volume, though there’s a tinge of German Expressionism in there, like Metropolis or, better yet, the tragically underrated masterpiece Dark City. Sci-fi noir, for sure, with a retro futurism to it.
KC: I think it slips somewhere between the sci-fi noir and action. It’s a nice balance of vol 1 and 2.
BCP: Obviously there was a slight stylistic change from the first and second series between Vic and yourself, Kyle. Is there a specific aesthetic you’ve gone for with Monadic, or will it be similar to your work on Clandestiny?
KC: There’s a definitive difference between art styles in RLC and RLM. Less intense linework and more focus on expressive brush work. The environment itself also lets me change things up. From empty, desolate landscapes to full cities and underground train stations. What I love about Matt’s colors is it makes it look like a David Fincher movie.
BCP: Michael, you’ve previously spoken in detail about your influences for Roche Limit, from Bladerunner to Gattaca, Kurt Vonnegut to Raymond Chandler. Are there any specific literary or cinematic influences that you can see in this final chapter?
MM: I talked about Metropolis and Dark City, those are definitely big ones. I think, philosophically, there’s a lot of William James in it, maybe even some of the ideas presented in the His Dark Materials series. Philip K. Dick, Leibniz, Solaris (Lem in general), maybe even some Ursula Le Guin.
BCP: Similar question for you, Kyle; are there any specific influences you’ve drawn on for the aesthetic of Monadic?
KC: Ha ha… Fincher.
BCP: Thematically, the series has covered a lot of ground so far; spirituality, the different motivations for survival, the destructive power of hubris. Is there a specific aspect of the human condition you’re planning on examining with Monadic?
MM: Monadic is the natural progression, in my mind, from the ideas in Anomalous and Clandestiny. In those books, we talked a lot about making your world—that’s Langford’s big thing, and the nucleus of the story’s philosophy, this idea of bettering the world at large by finding harmony in your own. That mirrors Roche in a nutshell because, again, we’re giving you a grand alien invasion story and turning it intimate. We take something big and make it small, personal.
That said, the story has been about, in many ways, inner peace and harmony—the reconciliation of the spirit in the corporeal world. Now, we’re moving forward to a more spiritual plane. How do you find harmony in the face of the universe and or a higher being? That’s the final leg of the journey, I’d say. In death, achieving peace.
BCP: I always rather enjoy the answers I get to this question, so… what would you say to someone out there who was unsure about picking this one up to help make their mind up?
KC: Hmm, I don’t know. I try to let the work sell itself. Buy it or I can’t get that cat that I really want. Or, if you’re a dog person, dog.
MM: <Enter Shia LaBouf DO IT clip here>
Kidding, kidding. I think the best thing I can say is that the Roche Limit experience is a rewarding one. If you come to this book on its terms and really dig into what’s happening on a few different levels, I can almost promise that you’ll have a rewarding experience. You’ll be challenged, sure, but you’ll also be brought to question things about life and spirituality, and you’ll come away with, to me, a life-affirming message.
And, at the end of the day, the book has one of the best art teams on the stands, it really does. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s unique; the characters are so easy to love, and the story is a pretty cool one.
Give us a shot—you won’t be sorry!
BCP: And finally, once Roche Limit is over, what’s next on the horizon for each of you?
KC: Not sure. Mike and I have a few different ideas to play with. I want to step away from sci-fi for a bit and maybe tackle something in the crime genre. Or a straight up drama. The more hallucinatory the better.
MM: I was lucky enough to recently sign a two-book deal with St. Martin’s, so I’ll be working on that pretty hardcore over the coming 18 months. I also have a new comic series launching in June, unannounced, that I’m so excited about. You want to talk about challenging? Just you wait…
The first issue of ROCHE LIMIT: MONADIC hits shelves on March 16th, and can be pre-ordered from your local comic shop using Diamond code JAN160550 up until the 22nd of February.
Additionally, the collected volumes of ROCHE LIMIT: ANOMOLOUS and ROCHE LIMIT: CLANDESTINY are available in all good comic shops now, and – as you might expect – come with an emphatic BCP Seal of Approval.