What are the colors of faith? What is the color of faith? Lorenzo de Felici Chroma #1 delves into these questions by contrasting life within the city of Bali, humanity’s last bastion, with the iridescent wilds that surround it. In the aftermath of the case, De Felice explained that he originally conceived the idea for Chroma Years ago, while working as a colorist in Italian comics. His skills as a colorist are central to Chroma’s success, as he not only uses color as a storytelling tool, but is about color itself and how color influences our experiences throughout life.
At the same time afterwards, De Felice explained that he wanted to avoid using color simply as a metaphor as films often do and make color a presence in the story, instead. As he does so, the familiar metaphorical value of color contrast is inescapable. By opening the issue with pages, wilds appear ChromaA world that practically glitters, it creates a sense of loss when the story instead takes root within the colorless walls of Pale City, a yearning for the brightness of those earlier pages.
It is an important distinction, and a credit to de Felice’s skill, that the city feels “colourless”. Not black and white, or gray, however without color, which turned out to be central to the structure of beliefs that allowed this last bastion of humanity to survive. But at what cost?
Balinese don’t simply go without color, they hate it, fear it, and hate it. There’s a little boy’s face when a colorful bird falls in front of him. But despite their colorless appearance, red blood still coursed in their veins. As McAfee explains, the priestly class of society, this is a reminder of the greed that ended the world as their ancestors knew it, and the greed that still exists within them and that threatens to flee when they look so intently at the blue of the sky or the green of the trees outside the city walls. It is their self-loathing, steeped in unearned guilt that colors so many of our experiences with religion.
This is what makes Chroma, the little girl who is in the high tower of the city, the perfect sin-eater in this society. For generations, those who lived within the city of Bali took lives of children who had nothing but black hair and dark eyes, until no such diversity remained in their society. But by random mutation, or perhaps lack of diversity in the remaining genetic pool, Chroma has a heterochromia iridescent, making one eye the blue of the seductive sky, and the other the green of those menacing trees.
But its existence is a secret. She was only allowed out due to ritual beatings, and was seen as a new threat sent by the King of Colors to infiltrate Bali City. Dressed as a monster with eyes that can drive you mad, no one knows her true nature but the priests until Zett, one of McAfee’s leads, sees her eyes himself and, for the first time, begins to openly question what she has taught him to believe.
The scaffolding that builds all this world-building is a careful consideration of religious orthodoxy. At every turn, he casts the new McAfee as the enemy. The great betrayal of humanity was the world’s attempt to create a new color. Chroma eyes are something new, or at least unseen in generations. There are examples of believers using logic based on false assumptions to justify terror, and one McAfee unabashedly talks about how believers’ fear is used to stick to the old ways. “It’s right” is a recurring catchphrase, as in “It’s right that we have to live in this little place” or “It’s right that other people hurt me”, showing how guilt mingles in their core beliefs, making audiences more resilient. However, monsters of giant lizards that supposedly feed on human blood exist outside of Bali, seemingly blind to black and white, suggesting that these traditions, though now possibly distorted, have roots in the imperatives of survival.
In his next book, De Felici discusses some anthropological theories about color and life, and how we begin in the darkening of the womb, progress and acquire new colors from red to blue to green, and eventually die heading towards white light. If this is considered true, it is easy to see the void in Bali’s existence. There is black and white to live, die and survive, but the colors of other experiences are absent. Though she’s probably lived in a tower all her life, Chroma’s irises make her appear more perceptive on the page than the often stylized dotted eyes of others living in Bali. However, Chroma did not see herself or her eyes. She only knows the colors outside her cell window and only knows herself as the others told her: a monster.
Zim sees something new in those eyes, something that makes the sky and trees less threatening, something that makes him feel self-assured enough to challenge McAfee’s lofty rhetoric. McAfee manages fear, so it should come as no surprise that those who have no fear should become uncontrollable.
It is unclear where De Felice will take him Chroma in future issues as the inciting incident of the story does not occur until the last page of this issue. While readers will have to wait for another issue for the main direction of the plot to be revealed (one might suppose), Chroma #1 stands tall as a powerful feat of world-building, and a thoughtful meditation on the colors of life, above all those we fear and those we deny ourselves and others.
posted by photo comics
on me November 16, 2022
written by Lorenzo de Felice
art through Lorenzo de Felice
Colors Lorenzo de Felice
messages by Ross Wootton
cover by Lorenzo de Felice