|A Dream Machine|
Malachi Ward's Ritual #2: The Reverie is a fantastic look at dread, loss and family trauma. It organically integrates it's science fiction element and allows the reader to focus on the drama that unfolds. I was thoroughly impressed by this comic book. I read it this summer in San Francisco (Thanks to the amazing inventory skills of Mission: Comics & Arts) and it has been in the back of my mind ever since.
We follow the story of Lina and Stevin, two siblings whose life is told over 22 years. We see them grow from mischievous kids to blasé teenagers. As a teenage boy, Stevin didn't really care about listening to his dad on a "take your kids to work day", where he talked about the exciting sci-fi complex where he works. We feel their pain as young adults they lose their mother to a serious illness (most likely cancer). Their family is shaken so solidly, that they are never quite able to move on. Their father has been completely swallowed by grief and time would not heal his wounds. Six years after their mother's passing, when Lina returns home to visit her brother Stevin, she notices her father sitting silently in the dark living room, completely overcome with grief. Three years after that and the pain still bleeds like an open wound. After a party where he drunkenly mistakes his sister-in-law for his wife, he retreats and disappears completely, leaving Stevin and Lina struggling to locate him.
The pieces all come together in the second half of the book as Stevin and Lina attempts to rescue their father. He has taken refuge in The Reverie, "The most powerful wish dimension ever discovered". He had access to this machine at his work and his friend, unable to refuse him access after seeing his pain, allowed him to take refuge inside for months. Stevin and Lina venture into the machine to retrieve him, and I will give no further details. Needless to say, this trip ends poorly for all involved.
The book is divided into two sections: the first uses a condensed time frame and follows a strict form, while the second is on on white paper and is much looser in terms of page structure. In the first half, each page has 12 panels, black gutters and black paper. The strict adherence to this form seem to represent history: a dark immovable, unchangeable past. The dread and family trauma forever permeats the children's formative years. The second half`s looser structure indicates the present and it's mutability and uncertainty.
|Flexibility of the Present|
Ward manages to create recognizable characters from childhood to adulthood. They evolved and are recognizable over time. Stevin matures through the story. We see him evolve from an aimless troublemaker to a son who genuinely cares about the well-being of his family. His physical form also matures throughout the story, yet he remains recognizable throughout. The creation of the dream landscapes were nice to see, but what really struck me was how well the characters were handled throughout the book. The focus, both from the story and from the art emphasize that this is first and foremost, a character study in depression, grief and family trauma.
Ritual appears to be self contained. I've read Ritual #3 and although some sci-fi elements are included, it had no relations to the previous issue. If you are so fortunate as to find a copy of Ritual anywhere, grab it. You will not be disappointed.