Alter Ego v1 "Camille" cover detail

Alter Ego v1: “Camille”

Created By: Pierre-Paul Renders
Written By: Denis Lapiere and Pierre-Paul Renders
Artist (Characters): Matthieu Reynes
Artist (Backgrounds): Benjamin Beneteau
Colorist: Albertine Ralenti (with Sebastien Hombel)
Lettering: Calix Ltd
Translator: Kelly R. Smith
Published by: Dupuis/Europe Comics
Number of Pages: 67
Original Publication: 2011

 

It’s a worldwide conspiracy thriller with big pharma to blame, unrelated people of the same age in danger, and one 20 year old woman trying to answer all the questions she has about her mother.

There’s a LOT Going On Here

Camille looking over her shoulder near the end of Alter Ego v1

The “Alter Ego” series is a big mystery. Suzanne Racht kept a lot of secrets from her daughter, Camille, not the least of which was the identity of her father. But that’s almost the least of the secrets she’s keeping. As the founder and leader of a biotech firm, she’s involved in some experiments and drug testing that stretch her definitions of “humane” and “ethical” to their breaking point.

That’s when she winds up dead, setting up a whole series of questions. Was it an accident? Murder? Suicide? What’s in her will and where will that take Camille next?

Alter Ego v1 begins with Camille delivering this letter

Over the course of this album, Camille jumps around the world, meeting people who knew her mother, worked with her mother, or were affected by her mother’s actions. It’s a mix of seeming dead-ends, deep relations who can only say so much for various reasons, and mysteries that have no easy answers. It all leads Camille to the realization that something rotten was happening at her mother’s pharmaceutical firm, and taking some drastic action to help clear her conscience, or clear her mother’s name, or — something.

That’s the gamble with this first volume. It’s not that it’s all set-up, but that you’re not going to get too many answers. Those are withheld from the reader at every turn. It can be frustrating to come so close and then shift in another direction, either because the new character we just met won’t tell Camille, or because the author is hiding it from the reader for a later reveal deliberately.

The author’s gamble is that the questions and the characters will be interesting enough to bring the reader back for more books to seek the answers. And you, as the reader, will want to follow any number of supporting characters from the book to get those answers.

Guess what? That’s the design of the series. It’s kinda cool. Let me explain after this image of Camille watching the sun set…

 

The Series’ Structure

Camille at Sunset for Alter Ego v1

Here’s what I find most fascinating about this series. The first six books make up the first cycle, with the same creative team.

This first book sets up the world and its mysteries. The next five books tell interconnecting stories from five other points of view. This isn’t Camille’s story. The fun and the craft of the series is in the way Lapiere and Renders overlap the stories, bring the characters together (or not), and fleshing out the larger overall global conspiracy story.

In some ways, this series is like “The X-Files,” if only Chris Carter had planned everything out in advance from the start and stuck to the plot.

I haven’t finished reading the whole series yet, only the next two books. The details and the connections are building on each other as I go. You could probably skip randomly around the first six volumes and not get “spoiled” on anything. In fact, the publishers encourage you to read this series in any order.

The point is in showing how the stories crossover, and learning bits and pieces as you go.

There’s a page at the end of each volume that tells you what you can learn about depending on which book you read next.

I’m going to read this series as if I’m reading it as it was released, in chronological order. That seems most logical. Maybe when I’m done, I’ll try to work out if the story would be as good in a different order.  Maybe I’ll even have a better reading order for you.

 

Harmonious Art

If the art reminds you of anything, think back to “Harmony,” which I reviewed a few months back.  (The third volume in that series is due out soon.  I hope the English translation doesn’t take too long…)

Alter Ego v1 backgrounds are detailed due to a second artist

Proof that having a separate background artist can lead to detailed backgrounds.

It’s the same artist, Matthieu Reynes.  In this series, he’s drawing the characters.  Another artist, Benjamin Beneteau, is doing backgrounds, but they look a lot like Reynes’ backgrounds from Harmony.  There’s definitely the feel of Sketch-Up in the works there, but in general a lot of solid, well-researched, and highly detailed backgrounds. (We’ll talk more about one of them in my review of the second volume of this series…)

Reynes’ characters are expressive.  Some might call it cartoony, and there are some aspects of it that feel like certain anatomical ratios are off a tad, like heads being a slight bit too big for their bodies.  But that all works for me.  I like an artist with style who doesn’t follow perfection, but rather something interesting.

This is somewhere between Dan DeCarlo’s “Archie” work and, uhm, Adam Hughes’ “Archie” work, I guess. That’s bit of a wide berth to give the book, I know.  It’s far closer to DeCarlo in that comparison.
 

 

Recommended?

Alter Ego v1 Camille cover by Matthieu Reynes

Yes, this is an interesting storytelling experiment. You can call it a gimmick if you want, but I wouldn’t.  It’s just another way to tell a story. I can’t wait to finish off the first six books to see how well they blend together.

After that, I have no idea what the second cycle will look like.  But, then, I should take this whole series one story at a time, in whatever order I choose…

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #98.)

 

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4 Comments

  • bacta November 28, 2017 at 3:48 am

    #98! Almost there..

    Reply
    • Augie November 28, 2017 at 8:16 am

      Thanks for noticing. =) And #100 is ready to go for tomorrow or Thursday. I’m actually a couple ahead of publishing at the moment, which is nice.

      Reply
      • bacta November 29, 2017 at 4:42 am

        You noticeably picked up the pace earlier this month! (or maybe October) 100+ reviews, nice. I only read some reviews in their entirety, but I enjoy seeing what comics you select.

        Reply
        • Augie November 29, 2017 at 8:11 am

          Yup, I’m not sure why, but I just got in a good writing groove, so things flowed quickly. I needed to catch up, and happily, I did. =) An no worries on not reading them all, since I write way too much anyway. I’ve been thinking of doing some kind of “capsule review summary” thing or other (under 500 words, just the highlights), but I’m still not sure how that would work or fit into the site. We’ll see…

          Reply

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