Alone v2 Master of Knives cover header by Gazzotti

Alone v2: “The Master of Knives”

Writer: Fabien Vehlmann
Artist: Bruno Gazzotti
Colorist: Bruno Gazzotti
Lettering: Design Amorandi
Translator: Jerome Saincantin
Published by: Dupuis/Cinebook
Number of Pages: 50
Original Publication: 2007


Things get serious, fast…

The Knives Come Out, Literally

I talked a lot in my review of the first volume about how friendly this series was for all ages. While it’s a scary situation for kids to be in, the first book doesn’t get too scary or horrific. The kids have to outrun some large animals, and do it on one occasion in a very “suspend every ounce of disbelief you can” kind of way.

And while things don’t turn to horror, characters don’t start shedding massive amounts of blood, and nobody loses a limb or anything, the second book definitely takes a turn for the more dramatic and slightly scary.

A tortured Snagglepuss plushie signals troubles ahead....

A tortured Snagglepuss plushie signals troubles ahead….

We are introduced to our first real bad guy of the series — another human still alive, but one who carries a small arsenal of knives and is chasing after our friendly ragtag band of five survivors. He leaves threatening messages in the form of a cut-up teddy bear, then chases Dodzi across rooftops, before the hand-to-hand combat comes out.  He is an utter mystery in a world that’s a giant question mark, and that’s what helps to make him scary.  He’s completely unpredictable.  That goes double when you’re ten years old and without your parents for the first time, ever.

This book marks a decision point for the series.  It’s not going to play it as safe as you might expect it to.  There’s some serious danger for the kids in this book from a mysterious source that cannot be reasoned with, on any level.  At least one member of the group is put in mortal danger, while a second gets hurt along the way.  There’s danger in this world, and Vehlmann isn’t going to soft pedal it.

He also adds in some creepy and tense moments, with the right use of half-explained scenes and moments.  The way he sets up and pays off the moments with the stray Snagglepuss-like stuffed animal is gloriously creepy/tense stuff.


The Kids Settle In

The book starts calmly enough.  The kids have moved into a swank hotel in town.  They’ve taken it over.  The youngest, Terry, has been grabbing all the toys he can find in town to create the ultimate toy room.  He has one for stuffed animals and one for action figures and one for Playmobil sets.  Camille is riding a horse through the hotel because why not?

A fancy room filled with toys in the hotel the kids are staying at in "Alone"

If only as a distraction to keep from thinking about the situation they’re stuck in, the youngest kids are having a field day, living out their ultimate dreams.  It’s like being given a blank check and eight hours inside a Toys R Us…

But, also, Ivan brings a gun with him that was his father’s, leading to some disagreements in the group about how to handle it.

Dodzi goes off into town on his own, drawing the attention of a mysterious masked man, dubbed “The Master of Knives.”  I mean, just look at him. It’s an apt name:


Master of Knives is an apt name

Dodzi tries to take him on solo, and that leads to the best action sequence of the series so far, sending Dodzi racing across the rooftops and improvising his way through a harrowing situation.

Eventually, the fight comes back to the hotel, where the kids have to defend themselves from the scary masked man. Will having a gun at a knife fight help them?  Maybe.  Maybe not.


The Art and Lettering of “Alone”

The font this series uses feels like a real old school comic book font.  Unlike a lot of the other translations I’ve looked at this year, the font is not attempting to mimic a more European hand-lettered style. This one is unapologetically a North American comics font.  The original French editions of the series feel a bit less rigid, but are also very clearly a computer font made for lettering.  So the new font for this translation fits in well with the original edition, stylistically, if not in detail.

Alone lettering sample, along with an off-panel word balloon tail

The balloons are imperfect. In general, they’re oval-ish.  In reality, they’re irregular and, I’d assume, hand-drawn.  They’re large, and the original French font is a little bigger, too, to account for that.  The Cinebook translated edition doesn’t increase the font size (thank goodness), so you get a lot of blank space inside the balloons. Again, this is a translation issue that can’t be helped.   It’s not a major problem at all, but I do see it.  After a while, you see the larger-than-usual balloon sizes as a stylistic choice, the same way tall manga balloons don’t bother you after a few pages.

I particularly like the balloon tails when they get all wiggly, which they use in “Alone” when a voice is off panel.

Cinebook is a British company, and nowhere has that been more obvious than in this series.  The kids speak British, for sure, as the occasional U.K.-friendly slang comes out here and there.  There are no excessive “U”s in any words, though, and it’s not a big deal.  Let the Brits speak British and translate into British.  I’m just happy to have these books in a language I can read.


The State of “Alone” Publishing

There are a total of ten books in the series so far.  If I’m reading French Wikipedia right, the series is planned for 22 albums total. The first “cycle” lasted four albums.  The second went four, and the most recent tenth volume is the start of a third.

Alone volumes 1 - 7 at Comixology

Cinebook is publishing the English language translations of the books.  They are up to volume seven at this point, which came out relatively recently.

Speaking of Cinebook, the paper quality they use soaks up the colors pretty badly.  Once you have the chance to compare a digital version of the book with the paper version of it, you’ll love the clarity of the digital comic.  The paper version doesn’t fare so well, particularly in the dark scenes where things turn to mud.



Alone v2 Master of Knives cover by Gazzotti

Yes.  While the first volume set up the series, the second one isn’t playing it safe.  The introduction of a knife-wielding psycho willing to come after the kids is an interesting one. It puts the kids at risk above and beyond just the natural course of events where so many people have vanished.  It’s not gory, but it is dramatic, and Vehlmann’s script milks it beautifully, while still wrapping it up for a complete story in this book.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #109.)


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