So here we are, Aama Volume 4, the climax of what is in anybody’s book something of an epic graphic novel series by Frederik Peeters. Let’s recap to start, shall we? Verloc Nim, a futuristic bookseller loses everything (business, wife, child) and, by way of distraction, ostensibly, is whipped off to the far side of space in the company of his high flying brother to find out what happened to a scientific expedition. Upon arrival, Verloc and his brother (and their kickass robot chimp Churchill) discover that all is not well: the scientific expedition have split into two groups, one of whom lounge around all day, largely feeling sorry for themselves and squabbling and the other… Well, the other has departed for locations unknown with aama, a concoction that (Verloc discovers) is in fact that whole point of the expedition. Aama, we learn, speeds up evolution (or does it?). Verloc, brother, Churchill and various others go in pursuit. But – and it’s a big but for anyone wanting to jump in at volume 4 without catching up first – all of this is told somewhat non-linearly. In that, at the beginning of Volume 1, Verloc wakes up not remembering his name and learns all about himself through a journal that ‘Verloc’ has kept. We also find out lots more about Verloc’s marriage, Verloc’s child (a baby conceived in the future without the help of the state, ie in the old fashioned way, which is just not the done thing) and, gradually, what Verloc’s brother’s firm thinks about Verloc’s child. The final bit of curiouser and curiouser we need to concern ourselves with is that, more or less on arriving on this distant planet, Verloc is confronted with – his daughter. Or at least a creature who looks and acts like his daughter. Is it his daughter, is it a trap, is it bait? Who knows? (You can read what we thought about Aama 1, 2 and 3 if you want to learn more.)
Aama 4, You Will Be Glorious, My Daughter is all answers. As the cover pretty much shows, Verloc has become the vehicle for aama itself. Hence his floral Swamp Thing get-up. Much of Aama 4 is taken up with Verloc’s battle to control and preserve himself in the face of something vast and unknowable. Returning to Earth, he bounces about, much like the Beyonder did in the original sequel to Secret Wars a great many years ago, zipping from one character to another and providing all sorts of closure (even to the extent that Verloc gets to revisit the old guy who ripped him off in Volume 1 – Peeters is nothing if not a neat guy). The gradual awareness we have of action back on Earth which began in the third volume accelerates here (and we wonder, would Peeters have been better threading through the business intrigues that come to the fore here a little earlier? – it’s a question). We also hear a little more from Verloc’s wife and daughter – the former doesn’t come out of the book well, the latter remains an enigmatic mystery, as perhaps she should be.
By the time you arrive at the climax, wrongly wondering if Verloc and aama will do battle, you see that aama has always been an unstoppable force, that the four books have been a world-changing juggernaut, and that the story of Verloc has quite possibly always been the story of his daughter. Which feels surprising in some ways. If you’ve read the previous books, or indeed anything else by Peeters, you’ll know that his work is wild, awash with literary nods (to the likes of Ballard, Conrad etc) – and that he isn’t afraid to make his readers put in a little work (which we appreciate). At this point in a series, it’s more important to know that Peeters doesn’t drop the ball (there’s nothing worse than investing time and effort in reading a series that flounders at the final hurdle) – and we’re pleased to report that Aama 4 is a great pay-off.
Any Cop?: One of the real graphic surprises of the last couple of years, You Will Be Glorious, My Daughter rounds out the series with a knockout punch.