Review by Ian Keogh
Very different from the whimsy of Hannah Berry’s first graphic novel Britten and Brülightly, Adamtine is a leisurely paced horror thriller, beginning with what may be strange events on a train, or are possibly the imagined manifestations of a fearful passenger.
Intelligent storytelling characterises Adamtine, Hannah Berry mixing past and present to build suspense via the extremely slow release of detail. By halfway we’ve learned that a number of people have disappeared, and in each case the last person to see them alive was one Rodney Moon, who passed on letters purporting to be from an abductor. He was charged, but a jury found him innocent, causing great resentment among the friends and relatives of those who’re missing. Sequences expand on that without ever showing Moon directly, just referring to him, while we’re also concerned about three people trapped on that train stalled in darkness.
As the sample page shows, there’s a clever toying with form, the black page borders having a purpose beyond being distinctive, and the art is atmospheric throughout. From the start Berry smartly plays with our perceptions, knowing we’re likely to assume one thing when the reverse is actually true, and it’ll take some time for that truth to fall into place. British readers are likely to pick up on the news stories influencing some of the moral arguments that play out in the background over a number of locations, but there are plenty of smart references beyond that. The title? It’s the missing letters from an obscure word, being the solution to a crossword clue mentioned by a train passenger. Most are going to have to look it up. It’s also a shame that the glossy black spooky detail doesn’t show up in the cover reproduction.
For all the clever accumulating disorientation, the moody art and the way tension is sustained, Adamtine isn’t going to satisfy anyone who wants their stories definitively resolved. Dots need connected, and even then readers aren’t necessarily going to be sure they’ve reached the right conclusion. It’s not helped by the characters not being distinctive enough, and Berry would have better used some different hair colours to avoid readers supplying additional layers of complexity that shouldn’t actually be present. Time and perception eventually twist so much that any certainty is removed. Do we only see Moon very briefly, or have we been reading about him all along? That such a question is possible conveys the level of intrigue, and if that appeals Adamtine is a creeping horror to be relished.