Review: Aldebaran (1994-1998) by Léo

7/10

Aldebaran (1994-1998) is a science fiction epic, a space opera, that stretches out over a series of 5 volumes that isn’t all that long. The omnibus edition reads as a single graphic novel. It’s one of the most successful SF series coming out of France in the past decades; written in the 1990s, and then spawned a couple of follow-up series – Betelgeuse, Antares and more – that continue to this day in the 2020s. All are written and drawn by Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira (drawing as Léo), a Brazilian comics artist. It’s his life’s work.

Comparisons are made with Frank Herbert’s Dune, because of the interstellar setting and the focus on ecology, but that is where the comparison ends. Aldebaran’s storytelling isn’t focused on royal families but on the travels and adventures of a group of main characters. And through these travels, Léo slowly expands his universe. So, to start: Mark Sorensen, Kim Keller and their families live in a tiny fishing village in an environment that could easily be Mediterranean or Caribbean, were it not for many strange animals around them. The sea is full of big scary alien monsters. Birds are all weird too. They live on an alien planet, a century after a wave of space colonisation from Earth, but Earth has gone silent and Mark and Kim live a low-tech lifestyle. So, think Leo’s homeland Brazil but with alien beasts. The story opens with the day that some monster from the depths comes and destroys their village.

Then a series of adventures begins.

While Mark and Kim travel, we get little hints about the world beyond their little fishing village and things aren’t cozy out there. There’s a ruling class of lordly priests, music is forbidden, journalism is tightly controlled… a lot of authoritarianism. And all the alien creatures are wonderful, mysterious and creepy. In a storyline similar to Lem’s Solaris (1961), two biologists try to communicate with a giant, shapeshifting sea creature.

Mark Sorensen, Kim and Nelly Keller, they’re teenagers and stubborn, hotheaded and tend to dramatise stuff, but the writer is totally aware and in control of how he’s writing his characters. Mark and Kim have their deeper layers. They don’t always understand their own feelings and they drive each other to despair and then try to talk things out. They come to realisations about their own behaviour and feel shame or anger. There’s good character growth and I enjoyed following them, for the most part. Truth be told, Mark can be a bit of an annoying, self-centered teenager, and seeing him struggling with his pride and feelings of attraction and inadequacy is… recognisable but cringey too.

It’s a comic that you have to give a bit of time to get into. It’s not an American comic with dynamic superhero action. The story moves slowly, there’s lots of talking, the sci-fi elements pop up slowly over time, and you’ll probably need to get used to the characters and to the way Léo draws his faces, which are a bit static. The alien creatures are much more interesting to look at. I began to tire of his drawing style towards the end. By the final volumes, the story began to feel a little thin. A little spread out over too many pages and not very innovative. There is a subplot about an authoritarian government and one about visitors from Earth and it all gets solved at the end. Mark and Kim never leave the planet, and often find themselves in their underwear. 

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18 Responses to Review: Aldebaran (1994-1998) by Léo

  1. bormgans says:

    I read this 20 years ago, don’t remember much of it, except that I liked it, especially the visual aspect creatures, so I guess your review is very fair. I also read the sequels. Good, simply more of the same iirc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Garry Morris says:

    I’ve been looking into more sci-fi since reading Dune. This sounds fantastic, and, bloody well written to boot.

    Like

    • Garry Morris says:

      Meaning, the review itself is well written! Whoops.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! I’ve only recently started to review comics on this blog. It has always been just books and movies.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Garry Morris says:

          Hey man, if you have the time, was wondering if I could borrow your experienced Sci-Fi eye to breeze over a couple (very short) Sci-Fi flash fictions I wrote? Most readers I get aren’t necessarily Sci-Fi interested, so would love some feedback from someone who is.

          They’re under the ‘Featured’ section at the top of my site, titles: ‘Evolution of the Egg’, and ‘Pluto’s Dilemma’ — wrote them pretty quickly, and unsure if it’s a genre I should pursue or not.

          Feel *more* than free to be brutal! Thanks :O)

          Like

  3. Bookstooge says:

    On that cover, how are they walking on the water?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. savageddt says:

    Good review man. The cover makes me feel like some of the stuff I ave gotten from the Europ comics range that just never got anything good to say from me. Sounds interesting enough, but do not think that this would be for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Review: Betelgeuse (’00 -’05) by Léo | A Sky of Books and Movies

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