Aldebaran is a series of books, both written and drawn by Leo, a Brazilian creator. The first book The Catastrophe also contains the second story, The Blonde, both of which follow the adventures of a young girl called Kim as her life is changed forever thanks to the changing environmental situation of her home, the arrival of mysterious and dangerous sea creatures and family tragedy.
The book is billed on the back as being ‘captivating science fiction’. It is a science fiction story on a huge scale although It doesn’t begin by telling me how many light years of travel it would take to reach the story’s setting from earth. Instead, i’ve almost finished reading page one before Leo let’s me in on the secret that despite this place looking like an exotic or tropical part of Earth and the couple on the cover looking remarkably like Human Beings this comic book is not set on earth.
There are no ray guns, or green skinned tentacle waving aliens in either The Catastrophe or The Blonde. Instead, there are queer parallels with Earth, an intriguing social commentary and surprises on almost every page. Even the cover of this book caught me off guard with its cool blue beach tones, and cheap paperback thriller imagery. This could have been a story board illustration from Overboard. Until I look more closely and realise that the couple running from the yacht and running on top of the water, with no land in sight. As the woman runs she looks back to see waves splashing over the yacht, not to her feet, which move effortlessly and impossibly over the water. What horror cold they be running from that would make this more of a spectacle than performing such a holy feat?
The cover sets the tone for these two books. With the exception of several exciting and original sea creatures, animals and birds, Aldebaran looks and feels like Earth. A more exotic part of Earth than the Earth I live in certainly, but Earth nonetheless.
Set many years in the future, Aldebaran is a planet once colonised by Earth, populated by descendants from those early Earthling settlers and now forgotten. It has been many years since the last contact with Earth and so things on Aldebaran have moved on to a point where the church rules the larger towns and cities with an iron fist and the backwaters are left to stagnate.
It’s a type of world I find attractive to read about. Our two main character are from just such a backwater and this makes their adventures all the more interesting. There is an exciting town mouse/ country mouse feel, including the reader as country mouse as Leo introduces us to some of the wilder elements of Aldebaran, huge winged beasts and Zeppelins. The male/ female dynamic as well as the age gap between Kim and Mark make their conversations interesting.
Mostly the translation of this book is very good. Whilst I don’t read French very well, and haven’t looked at the original book, there are times where the English dialogue just feels a little silly, stilted and formal. I’m putting this down to blips in translation, rather than Leo making his characters talk like this on purpose at times. It’s Kim who comes off worst from this. At 13 she is characterised as being mature for her age, but there a times where her dialogue just doesn’t sit well with me. A girl could be mature for her age without calling everyone ‘sweetie’.
The art in the book is beautiful. Lots of brilliant widescreen moments and inventive panel layouts keeps the story moving in an interesting way. Figures retain lots of life and movement whilst the occasional facial expression fails to work in accordance with what is happening, or change much from panel to panel. The colour work is smooth and at times both hot and cool. The night scenes are brilliantly claustrophobic whilst remaining sufficiently illustrative. The Amedea encounter in the sea is wonderful. This creature made me gasp, like some crazy Kirby demon we’re afraid of without knowing why.
The story goes through various twists and turns and leaves me dying to know what’s next for Kim, Mark and the planet of Aldebaran. This is a science fiction story to rival novels, films and other key vehicles for the genre. It’s a beautiful book with an absorbing story that deserves to be read. Well constructed character and challenging life events make this into a book of some substance. Highly recommended.
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