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Solitude Review: One of the Most Remarkable Graphic Novels Ever

It could’ve been the dullest narrative ever and Solitude still would have been one of the most extraordinary pieces that I’ve had the fortune to cover at A Place To Hang Your Cape. Luckily, the creator of this graphic novel, Jon Renzella, had other ideas in mind. Instead, Renzella gives us a beautifully detailed account of the collapse of a society that is not all too different than ours. Making Solitude a project worthy of anyone’s attention with its captivating social commentary and breathtakingly, handmade artistic features.

Solitude is the sequel to Schism and part of Renzella’s Sunderland trilogy. As Renzella states in our interview with him this entire project came out of an “enormous woodcut installation I made in 2010. The woodcut is 8′ x 35’10” and covers the interior walls of a 9′ square room.” Every page of Schism has been drawn out, carved out, and then inked and pressed onto a sheet of paper. A project that, especially when you see the length of Renzella’s work, understandably took years.

Solitude and the Sunderland trilogy as a whole have been written as reflection pieces for Renzella on the state of the world and public discourse. Schism was created in his 20s. Solitude in his 30s. And the final work of the trilogy, Thermidor, will be created when Renzella is in his 40s. Making this entire project one of the most unique artistic endeavors that I have ever encountered. The only comparison that comes to mind is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which shows the evolution of both the characters and the director throughout its 11-year arc.

The Sunderland trilogy is similar in that it shows how this dystopian society evolves. At first as a fractured whole, but then eventually into separate sects of civilization. Which is the Schism. Solitude shows the by-product of this widespread separation of general society, infantry groups, and cults alike. And these groups’ separate ideologies are only reinforced by the appearance of these two structures known as the Conduits. Which continue to grow and cause more paranoia alike, causing conflict and further chaos in this dystopian society.

While the more powerful groups battle for supremacy, such as the military and the cult of Serin Civetta, an underclass of the general society helplessly looks on and suffers the consequences. The cult as mentioned above is led by a zealot who convinces his followers that these strange events are the cause of reptilian aliens. Showcasing how when enough people are desperate and dismayed at the state of the world, the crazy theories that seem to be on the fringe become even more realistic to certain demographics.

A corrupt system under the guise of a meritocracy is one way to drive that nihilistic outlook. In the case of the Sunderland trilogy, we see many instances that drive these conspiracy theories. Starting with a monopoly on the news provided to the public. The major global network, known as BUH People’s News, drives agendas and division down the public’s throats with combative discourse towards anyone with dissenting opinions. Additionally, military regimes are able to use capital punishment against acts that even Bloody Mary would consider to be non-existent crimes. All of these elements play a part in the Schism of this society.

The questions going forward throughout Solitude are aplenty. Is anyone going to come to their senses? Is there going to be some type of middle ground reached between these sects? Or has the tribalism caused an insurmountable wedge, especially as each group has further isolated themselves in their own echo chamber? Or is this the way it ought to be? And is this a reflection of our future to a certain extent? Unfortunately, especially as more strange events begin to take place, the powerful consolidate even more authority over their sects, making the future look even direr.

Solitude ultimately shows how control in the hands of a few bad actors as part of an overall corrupt system is what leads to a dystopian society. And it’s not a coincidence that this project is a reflective piece on the state of our world (teed up a bit of course). Overall, this is an extraordinary accomplishment for Renzella and his team. Both Solitude and Schism are long reads but the next piece of the Sunderland trilogy, Thermidor, isn’t coming for close to a decade so you’ll have plenty of time!

If you want to know more about Solitude, you can check out this Kickstarter link! Find out more about how this entire project came together and Schism with this link here to Jon Renzella’s website. And sound off on both our Twitter and/or Facebook feeds to let us know what you thought about Solitude!

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Dylan FIne

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