This is a very recent addition to my collection of graphic novels. A single book story, by U.K-based artist and writer Hannah Berry, it is one I knew on finishing should be included in this series.
Adamtine is a brilliantly effective combination of mystery tale and psychological horror.
From the first page there is a disconcerting atmosphere. The artwork uses muted inks and paint throughout, which is particularly impressive at capturing the flat, yellow lighting of a train (where much of the story is set). Perspectives too provide the clear sense of some impending wrongness.
Amongst other commuters on a night train; four people are each part of an unknowing chain with one particular event linking them together.
The back stories of each of the four plays out through the train journey. What links them is revealed in flashback scenes and the evolving detail of the present moment, such as a through a tabloid newspaper that a character reads. What begins to form is the relationship to each other through one man: Rodney Moon.
Some years previously; Rodney was arrested as the main suspect in a case of multiple disappearances. All were strangers to each other, from unrelated walks of life and all vanished with no trace left behind. There is only one thing that the individuals had in common; Rodney Moon was the last person to see them alive, having handed each person a handwritten letter.
Yet his plea in court was that he acted as only as a delivery man (the tabloid papers nickname him “the Postman”). It was a monster, a bogeyman, who was responsible for the letters and what happened after. With no apparent evidence to prove his responsibility for kidnapping he is acquitted of the charges, released and, very soon after, also appears to vanish. The disappearances, which presumably stopped at the time he was arrested, begin to occur again.
Throughout the story Rodney Moon remains a hidden figure. Perceptions of who he is are made only through the views of other characters. His face is never clearly seen, he speaks only once and his background and involvement with the disappearances is equally opaque; is he a random kidnapper who escaped justice? If he is not, as he claims, what really happened to the missing?
The events on the train move from the every day commuter experience; delays, the awkwardness of strangers in a confined space, impatience to be elsewhere to the deeply strange; time and space loop, figures are visible outside, briefly, but are never clearly seen by the characters, only by the reader (which is particularly creepy for me).
The question “Why these four people?” does receive an answer in the end.
However, the mystery behind the disappearances is left open. Hints are present, in the illustrations and the dialogue, which makes it worth a thorough examination panel by panel, but it is up to the reader to decide on what reasons are behind the events.
What makes this such a strong read is not only the skilful building of atmosphere or the feeling of looming, unavoidable, revenge that runs through the whole storyline. It is the unsettling questions that are left to ponder.
Images included here for review purposes are from Hannah Berry’s free, two chapter PDF sampler of Adamtine available at hannahberry.co.uk.