Current Reviews


Aldebaran: The Catastrophe

Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2008
By: Penny Kenny

“The Catastrophe” & “The Blonde”

Aldebaran was the first planet outside the solar system colonized by humans. However, almost immediately after its 1500 settlers arrived, all contact with Earth was lost. A hundred years later, some Aldebarans (like Kim) are expecting contact to be reestablished any day while others (like Mark) would rather concentrate on “reality”--i.e., chasing girls, getting laid, and moving to the big city. Unfortunately both dreams seem destined to come to nothing as a never-before-seen creature emerges from the ocean depths to destroy their village and families, and sending Kim and Mark on an odyssey across their planet that will entangle them in politics and rebellion.

I love the amount of thought and detail writer and illustrator Leo (just “Leo”) has put into his world building. You can lose yourself in studying the variety of Aldebaran’s flora and fauna. Some of the sea creatures are H.R. Giger-esque in their powerful alienness. Others, like the human-faced Amedea, are frightening because of their unfamiliar familiarity. Then there are the sand octopi, who have a terrifyingly effective adaptation that allows them to trap their prey.

At times, when we see full-length shots of the characters in motion, they have a square stiffness to them. They look awkward in the panel. On the other hand, three-quarter or half-length shots have a much more natural and at-ease look to them. And in repose, the characters can be extremely attractive.

The faces are individualized and display a wide variety of expressions. The scene in which Mark pulls an arrow out of his traveling companion, the mysterious Alexa, allows for dramatic visual storytelling, and Leo doesn’t disappoint. His characters’ faces scrunch up in agony. Their mouths open wide to scream. All the blood, sweat, and tears are there on the page.

The coloring is beautiful. The teals and blues that Leo uses in night scenes are especially nice, while the grey skies that presage a rainstorm actually make you shiver in anticipation of the damp.

These first two chapters of Aldebaran(“The Catastrophe” & “The Blonde”) are mainly a series of incidents that introduce readers to Kim, Mark, the world of Aldebaran, and its inhabitants. There are hints of an overall plot, with the suggestion that the catastrophe at the village, the corrupt theocratic government, and Alexa and her organization are all tied together somehow.

Mainly, though, readers are just following Mark from one place to another as he begins his journey to maturity--and it’s a journey he certainly needs to take! At times he comes across as a very likable young man with a strongly developed sense of responsibility.

At other times, he lets his hormones do his thinking for him. His reaction to a pretty face puts himself--and especially Kim--in danger . . . not once, but twice!

Mark’s prickly relationship with the younger, precocious Kim is well developed. Caught between thinking of her as a pest, a sister, a companion, and maybe something more, his scenes with her can go from relaxed to awkward in a panel. Hopefully, Kim will have a larger role in future volumes, as her brusque common sense makes an interesting contrast to Mark’s emotional romanticism. In an unusual conceit, the pair call each other by their full names a great deal of the time. It gives their conversation an interesting rhythm.

As always, Cinebook takes care not to offend its more sensitive readers. With the creator’s permission, illustrations have been modified by the publisher. Nevertheless, Aldebaran remains refreshingly adult and frank in its portrayal of sex and violence. Both are handled in a matter of fact manner. They’re part of the story and life, but they aren’t the main focus. There’s no lingering for the sake of “Oh look what I can put on the page.”

Readers looking for intelligent SF along the lines of Ursula K. LeGuin and Eric Frank Russell’s works should give Aldebaran a try.

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