Adamtine by Hannah Berry

16th Feb 2015

Adamtine by Hannah Berry
An atmospheric graphic novel centring on a mysterious train journey and the way people cope with unexpected events.

Hannah Berry’s first graphic novel, Britten and Brülightly, was a neo-noir tale of a private investigator which established her as a cartoonist to watch. Both are published by Jonathan Cape, the biggest graphic novel publisher in the UK, which has a wealth of exciting cartoonists on its books.

Adamtine has a similarly noir feel to its predecessor, though a different type of narrative structure. An atmospheric and enthralling tale of horror, it focuses on what at first appears to be a mundane train journey. Gradually we learn about an event that happened a few years previously in which people disappeared from a train; strangers, seemingly unconnected. The story takes place partly in flashback, as details are revealed about the mysterious events surrounding the disappearances.

Rodney Moon, ‘The Postman’ is accused of involvement, but many believe he was merely the accomplice to an otherworldly being; delivering notes to the doomed victims on its behalf. Cynics joke about the ‘bogeyman’, but this feels like a world where terrifying creatures could easily be lurking in the shadows.

Cuts to a press office show the dilemma of journalists revealing what they know of the truth, and issues of corruption arise. The editor of the paper herself ends up on the fateful train journey, vexed by a socially awkward man who mistakenly thinks she’s interested in him and unnecessarily points out that he’s not interested in ‘mature women’.

Reading becomes a balancing act between needing to find out what happens next and wanting to savour the artwork.

There are three people in the train carriage and all have backstories which are explored in between the increasingly frightening developments in the present. The dialogue is realistic and at times comical as the characters try to navigate the unexplained events while getting to know each other.

Adamtine‘s narrative is gripping; reading becomes a balancing act between needing to find out what happens next and wanting to savour the artwork.

The images are beautifully hand-painted (and the text hand-written). There are several pages featuring wordless panels. Multiple symbols and motifs register subconsciously and drag the reader further into the dark ambience of this peculiar world.

It’s an impressive achievement to make a comic that has a genuine sense of dread running through it. It’s not the easiest medium with which to instil any kind of fear in the reader, but Berry has achieved this while also creating a beautiful and compelling work.

An aesthetically pleasing venture into atmospheric horror, the noir approximation of contemporary life gives Adamtine a timeless feel. It will be interesting to see what Berry does next.