Aldebaran: The Catastrophe is the first volume of Leo’s science fiction epic.
From the Cinebook website:
‘In Aldebaran’s Worlds, you’ll live one of the most fantastic sagas ever written by man. The author tells the story of humanity’s first attempts to colonise distant planets. In their travels, Kim and her companions will encounter strange creatures and face the dangers of unknown worlds. They’ll witness the destruction caused by the madness of mankind. In the first album, Kim meets Mark, another teenager who has survived the annihilation of their village. Together they set out to find explanations for this terrible catastrophe... This two-volume book includes “The Blonde.”’
Aldebaran: The Catastrophe is set in the year 2184, and the colony on the planet Aldebaran has been cut off from Earth for a hundred years. The colonists struggled to survive but have now come to terms with the wild and strange flora and fauna of the world and their government has become a quite brutal military/religious dictatorship. Although the blurb on the book seems to concentrate on the character Kim, a wily and headstrong thirteen year old girl, the narrator and main character in this volume seems top be the young, socially confused and brash Mark. I assume that the following volumes - of which there are five, another two on Aldebaran and three on Betelgeuse - will concentrate on the Kim character. She still gets a lot of page time in this volume.
Leo’s artwork is very functional and brightly coloured which reflects the seemingly tropical nature of the planet. The vistas are impressive but I can’t help but feel that the characters are illustrated as if models were posing for the images; there isn’t much dynamism to the drawings, no real sense of movement or action. Each character is well detailed and easily identifiable, and the world they live in has a character of it’s own as far as the landscape and strange vegetation is concerned but the alien creatures are a little flat; they seem to have human features, for the most part, and that doesn’t spark the imagination very much. There’s a lack of a real science fiction atmosphere to the art, as in there’s no crazy machinery, spaceships or equipment. The fashion seems to be a general late 20th century look, with technology at a very simple early 20th century stage. With the inclusion of modern-style weapons, old-style airships and Napoleonic-style tallships, it’s really a mismatch of eras that reflects what the settlers had to do with the tools and knowledge at their disposal and makes the world a very dynamic and interesting place even though sometimes you forget you’re on another world. It’s all very well rendered.
The writing is very detailed and there’s plenty of it – it really is the kind of graphic novel in which you invest a lot of reading time, but the story is very interesting and goes on at a nice clip. There’s a lot of issues with relationships, especially the unrequited romance between the smitten Mark and Kim’s sister Nelly, but it really doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the overall story. It sets up Mark’s nervousness and somewhat clumsy social skills well, but it doesn’t blossom into anything and feels like a waste of time. Mark’s narration certainly helps and explains a lot about him and the world around him and helps to carry the story so that the reader doesn’t get lost. There's a great section in the back of the book detailing the timeline up to the loss of the colony, a map of the world of Aldebaran itself and it's place in the heavens - a few great details just to add to the flavour. On the whole it’s very well written.
Aldebaran: The Catastrophe does feel like the first half of a TV series pilot – the characters are introduced, the basics of the world is established and the general premise of the story is set up. What is the strange sea creature that destroyed the village? Who is the stranger who warned them, and why do the government want him so badly? They really are interesting questions and the strange abilities of the creature only serve to heighten the mystery.
With characters you care about on a mysterious world you’d like to visit I see good things ahead for the Aldebaran story. I’m very much looking forward to the next two volumes about this world.