Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Bezkamp’ OGN, out September 18 from ROAR, an imprint of Lion Forge Comics.
THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘BEZKAMP’ OGN IS SPOILER-FREE.
by Lauren Fernandes. Humanity’s relationship with our environment has inspired countless works of fiction that have captivated us and remained as a fingerprint on our DNA. Works like Jack London’s White Fang, Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves or My Side of the Mountain depict different but similarly entangled stories of their human characters and the natural environments and creatures they share them with. Humanity has always been interested in the world surrounding us; it captivates our attention as a provider of resources, a threat, a source of beauty. It is equally (depending on who you ask or which side of history you’re on) a thing to conquer, a thing to study, and a thing to protect and preserve.
Writer Samuel Sattin and artist Jen Hickman have brought us another story to add to this collection. BezKamp is their collaborative Young Adult graphic novel, and it is a story that is absolutely worth telling today.
BezKamp tells us about an illiterate society living in a city called BezKamp. In BezKamp, all curiosity is outlawed. It is not just discouraged, it is punishable. In this society, writing (or “marking”) is forbidden. The dedication to their religious beliefs is absolute, and therefore no deviations may be made and no thought process may threaten it. We follow a boy named Nem on his journey to find a place in this stringent society while satisfying his own moral compass and intellectual desires.
The culture in BezKamp is nearly impossible for me to imagine. I sit here, writing this on a 10.5” iPad, with unlimited access to information on the internet completely at my fingertips. I could write for days if I wanted, and distribute that writing to anyone and everyone I wanted nearly instantly with social media and emails. To be cut off from that connectivity, from the easy access to the known histories of our world, from the ability to intellectually explore basically anything I want is a concept that drew me in to this novel. It drew me in with a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat. Writing is literally one of the foundations necessary to develop a culture, right after agriculture and the domestication of animals. What happens when these steps are taken in reverse? It’s horrifying to imagine. And that is the power of Bezkamp.
In connection with this, Sattin has taken the time to imagine how language would be altered with no written word. He gives us an idea of what colloquial English would sound like if it were only ever passed down by word of mouth. Admittedly, there were a few words I had to sound out in order to pick up the meaning. Seeing this purely phonetic, slightly bastardized form of English makes the read somewhat more challenging at moments, but it adds a very meaty layer to the world we’re exploring. Figuring out some of the words became something of a game for me at moments. AW’s DC Hopkins provides the lettering in this book, and his work helps guide the reader through the far-removed version of our language.
Curiosity is a theme in BezKamp. Jen Hickman has taken that and ran with it. They’ve given us layers upon layers to explore in the Worlands outside of the city limits. It is worth reading, and then reading again because there promises to be things you didn’t see the first time. You excavate through the layers of Hickman’s imagery, connecting the clues Sattin has left you in the text, following the trail Hopkins has left, constantly discovering more and more. More about Nem, about his family, and about the whole history of his world. Like with any archaeological dig, a lot of what you first find is not what it seems. The world is both scary and beautiful.
As I write this, the Amazon rainforest is burning. I sit, looking at a beautiful Texas landscape during what has been a summer of record-breaking heat. A few days ago, Iceland held a memorial for one of its lost glaciers. BezKamp is a story worth telling today. It is worth reading, worth feeling, and worth allowing it to become a part of you. It is worth putting into the collective headspace. We affect the world around us. The world around us affects us.
The monument for the glacier in Iceland reads; “This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”
Aren’t you curyous?
Lion Forge / ROAR / $14.99
Written by Samuel Sattin.
Illustrated by Jen Hickman.
Color assistance by K Uvick.
Letters by AW’s DC Hopkins.
8 out of 10
‘Bezkamp’ hits comic shops September 18 and bookstores October 1. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: JUL192042)