The first instalment in this four-volume space opera has a sense of wit that’s dryer than sandpaper and as much mystery than any Batman comic that treats its hero as a genuine crime-fighter, and not some pimped-up superhero. But Aama Vol: 1. The Smell of Warm Dust, written and illustrated by Frederik Peeters, has no superheroes in its tale. Its got a cigar-smoking robot ape, but no bat-themed cape-swishers.
Aama Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust opens with Verloc Nim waking up on an alien world, crying. Robot-ape Churchill greats him with the warmth you’d expect a robotic butler to give you, but Verloc has lost his memory, which is saved only by Verloc having written down recent events in a diary. Much of The Smell of Warm Dust is a series of flashbacks to Verloc’s troubled past, which he tries to make sense of.
This is perhaps The Smell of Warm Dust‘s main flaw – it cheats. The bulk of the story is a recapping of events that the characters are aware of, but not the reader – and Verloc. Additionally, Verloc reading his diary while he and Churchill meander their way across alien landscapes is about all that happens in the present. But what does happen via flashbacks promises a highly intriguing story, featuring estranged parenthood, tense brotherly relations and abandoned scientists who appear to be making remarkable leaps forward in humanity, which Verloc’s brother is keen to get his hands on.
The Smell of Warm Dust has a highly idiosyncratic feel to it, and sports that age-old nature of the characters journeying towards something larger than they first envisioned. Its narrated with a fine sense of character – Verloc himself is someone who’s ex-partner prevents him from seeing their child as well as loosing his father’s bookstore to a conman, and yet his flippant, offbeat, carefree personality is somewhat endearing. Verloc ingrains himself into reader’s hearts more-so through his present state of forgetfulness, and the fact that his estranged daughter (or at least what looks like her) has turned up on the same alien world he finds himself on.
Writer/artist Frederik Peeters illustrates The Smell of Warm Dust with a bright, sketchy manner that brings alien landscapes to life as much as character’s expressions – Verloc’s sobbing and Churchill’s grinning have an equal level of realism in their close-up detail, making their appearances all the more surreal.
Aama Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust ultimately has an enchanting air to it, and is a solid enough tale on its own which, like any stories spanning multiple instalments, will surely gain new light once future volumes reveal themselves. Its dead-pan, unconscious humour keeps the scope of the story well below pomposity, while its touching layers of humanity adds light and shade in all its nooks and crannies.
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