Challenging character stereotypes, normalizing mental-health struggles and a pure love for the horror genre all shine through in David A. Robertson’s Version Control, the second installment of the local author’s graphic-novel trilogy The Reckoner Rises.
Reckoner Rises is itself a sequel to the award-winning local author’s earlier Reckoner trilogy. Version Control begins with series protagonist Cole close to death. This forces the character Eva to investigate the diabolical Mihko Laboratories and track down their missing friend Brady.
With Eva taking the lead, Robertson says it was important to represent her in ways that defied stereotypes.
“Indigenous women have been so poorly represented and oftentimes very sexualized, which has led to, I believe, a lot of societal problems,” Robertson, who is a member of Norway House Cree Nation, says. “We’re conditioned to see people a certain way based on how they’re represented in mass media, popular culture.
Since the Reckoner trilogy, “she was and is a powerful character, self-confident and never sexualized, never the object of any sort of pithy love interest or anything like that.”
In Version Control, Eva stumbles across a secret laboratory and hones her superpower to manipulate the wind, while Cole is left to grapple with his helplessness. Robertson inextricably ties Cole’s character to his mental-health struggles as a safe way to empower people to recognize their own struggles.
“I think after the Reckoner trilogy, he thought he was over it and that he was through it, and the reality is that you can’t really ever be cured from mental-health struggles,” Robertson says.
“(You need to) learn how to live with them in more healthy and productive ways. So that’s something I’ve tried to do in my own life, and it’s something that Cole has tried to do. But it’s a struggle, and so Cole in this book is struggling.”
Collaboration is important to Robertson, and he works closely with illustrator Scott B. Henderson to weave together a story that he says is a balance between both social commentary and entertainment. Throughout the <i>Reckoner Rises</i> series, the two are also joined by colourist Donovan Yaciuk.
Robertson says a key scene in the book was inspired by Gore Verbinski’s 2002 film The Ring. While wading deeper into the basement laboratory, Eva comes across a horror scene of a young girl trapped in a room bathed in red light. The young girl begins to multiply, as different versions of herself drop to the floor.
“In some way, I think what I want the reader to know is that, first of all, the way in which our Indigenous women in this country are being murdered, are suffering from violence is horrific. I think, when you look at a character like the girl in Version Control, she’s somebody’s daughter. Somewhere out there, she has a family that’s missing her, and I think about that,” Robertson says.
“But on the flip side of it, it’s also a character that is (in) a really cool, really chilling, really scary moment. I think there is a balancing act between the two things.”
True to the graphic-novel medium, Robertson ends Version Control on quite a cliffhanger. He’s working to pay it off in the series’ third installment in a way that honours the characters, the reader and their patience.
Published in Volume 76, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 31, 2022)