Alone v1 cover header featuring Dodzi

Alone v1: “The Vanishing”

Writer: Fabien Vehlmann
Artist: Bruno Gazzotti
Colorist: Bruno Gazzotti
Lettering: Design Amorandi
Translator: Jerome Saintcantin
Published by: Dupuis/Cinebook
Number of Pages: 59
Original Publication: 2006

It’s like “The Walking Dead” for kids. With no zombies. Or gore.  There are big game animals roaming the city, though.

Alone: Setting Up The World

Alone v1 Dodzi meets Leila

This first book is a straightforward setting up of the world. There are five main characters.  We get a short single page introduction to each in their daily lives before everything changes. They wake up the next day to discover everyone else is gone — adults, kids, men, women, etc.

The five kids find each other randomly and stick together for survival’s sake and because, let’s face it, they’re kids who want leadership and someone to help take care of them.  They range in age from about 7 – 15, I’d say, but that’s a rough estimate.

Fabien Vehlmann’s script is careful to give you enough about each character in those one page introductions to give you a specific trait to hang on each, and to make sure each is different from the rest.

You get Dodzi, the orphan having a tough time in school.  You get the STEM-friendly girl, Leila, who likes to tinker.  There’s the latchkey kid, Ivan, whose parents are never around.  The awkward not-very-social girl, Camille, studies a lot because her parents expect serious things from her, though she just wants to be a kid and has a princess doll on her desk.  (That’s how I’m reading it, at least.)  And then you have the youngest boy, Terry, who just wants to watch television and play with his toys.

Alone, when Ivan met Dodzi, from under a box

It’s a nice variety of characters that are sure to highlight different aspects of their loneliness and loss over the course of the series.  It’s all about the mechanics of putting different characters into difficult situations and then seeing how they work together, or don’t work together.  Even in this first album, they each get a good character-based moment or two.

 

Suspension of Disbelief

Look out for Rhinos in the street in Alone

Like with “The Walking Dead” (tv or comic book), you’re going to have to suspend some disbelief a little bit here.  The point of the series in the earliest books is not in discovering what happened.  They try to figure out where everyone went, but the main activity here is survival.  How can they get what they need while avoiding, for example, the large wild animals (rhinos and zebras, included) that are roaming the town from the local zoo/carnival?

If everyone else in the world is gone, who’s going to fix the power grid when it fails?  How will the kids bring food in after it all spoils?  Didn’t she learn how to drive a little too easily?

Isn’t it convenient that a tinkerer survived in a world where a group would need someone who could fix things to survive?

The kids of Alone raid a vending machine

Remember all those questions you had with “Y the Last Man” the Brian K. Vaughan didn’t answer?

Stop thinking about too many of those details.  That’s not the point of the story (until it is for plot’s sake).  Jump on the train and enjoy the ride, and let it take you where it wants to.  If you think they missed some obvious question or difficulty the kids should have later on, start your fanfic engines.

 

The Art of “Alone” and Bruno Gazzotti

Gazzotti’s art is super friendly to all ages.  It’s complete in that its storytelling is super easy to follow, the characters are easily distinguishable from one another, and scenes are set up carefully with wide angles and  plenty of backgrounds.

You know where everything is happening. Everything at a glance is easy to read.

If you like the art of Mauricet, for one example, you’ll easily enjoy this.  The coloring is simple, mostly flat, and not too worried about shading and highlights.  There’s a fair amount of subtle gradients in the backgrounds that might run some people the wrong way, but as a comics reader of the 90s, it doesn’t bother me too much.

This was also the hit against Susan Daigle-Leach’s Duck coloring work for Gladstone/Disney in the 80s and 90s from those who wanted everything to look like Carl Barks’s 1950s-era work.  While it could occasionally go overboard, I think she struck a decent balance most of the time, and it didn’t bother me.

End of digression.

Bruno Gazzotti draws rooftops

Gazzotti is also good at architecture, which you know is always a huge plus for me. I like the way he uses black shadows to create the lighting in this panel, for example, rather than leaving it to the coloring.  The bricks in the extreme foreground are filled in black in the shadows, while the top of the roof at the end of the street has a brighter color leading into the straight black lines to make it look like a gradient.

 

Kid-Friendly Adventure and Thrills

As the back cover of the book points out, “Alone” won the 2007 and 2010 awards for 9-12 Youth Prize at the Angouleme Festival.  It is a great book for that age group.  To use the comparison I use far too often, it is a nice Disney Channel version of a survival book.  It’s “The Walking Dead,” but for kids — safer, saner, lighter, and much more colorful.  Also, no zombies.  In the first book, at least, the only villains are the powerful animals who are, likewise, just trying to survive.

It’s an easy to read book with just enough thrills and chases to hold your attention, with characters who are different enough to be interesting.


 

The Movie

In the shadow of the international roll-out of “Valerian” last year, “Alone” had its own movie adaptation.  It was a big highlight of the Angouleme Festival, but it was a French language movie with no translation or distribution in the English-speaking world.  It’s understandable that you never heard of it.

Here’s the trailer, which steals a couple of scenes from this first volume:

The kids feel a little older in the movie than in the comic, but that might be me.  It looks like a chunk of the movie is based on the bad guy in the second book, though there are definite moments from the first book in this trailer, too.

I haven’t read anything past the second volume in the book series, so I’m not sure what’s going on with the clouds and the people in white who are chanting.  I can’t wait to get there, though.

 

Recommended?

Alone v1 cover featuring Dodzi

Sure, this is good harmless fun.  It’s not sterile and safe, though.  The kids do have dangers to face up to, and there is a fair amount of action and running around.  The whole book doesn’t hold together, necessarily, as a singular cohesive story.  Things run in different directions and join up at the end, but this is a classic “Getting the Team Together” story, so it’s to be expected.

In Alone, sometimes you just need a good cry

Sometimes, the kids just need a good cry…

You have well-defined characters stuck in a bad world suddenly. I want to root for them, even when they can occasionally be very very immature and annoying.  They’re just kids being kids.

The trick will be in seeing how the  overall story progresses, and if there is some kind of arc at all, paired with how well the characters develop over the course of the series. Will the events of the book change them?  Will they be overwhelmed by their new world, or take the bull by the horns and try to make it through?

Let’s see what Vehlmann and Gazzotti have in mind…

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #108.)

 

Buy It Now

Buy this book on Amazon Click here to buy digital BD comics albums through Izneo.com  Buy this book on Comixology

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2 Comments

  • Jerome Saincantin December 21, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Oh, there’s an arc, and then some. This is easily one of my favourite comics of all time. It’s suitable for kids, but it works very well for adults, too! For this adult, at least…

    Slight note, though: the artist’s name is Gazzotti – with an ‘i’ at the end. :p

    Reply
    • Augie December 21, 2017 at 11:17 am

      This is what happens when you put it in the credits wrong the first time and then just copy-and-paste throughout the rest of the review. 😉

      So volumes 1 – 6 are digital and print. I have volume 7 print on my bookshelf here. I assume 8 – 10 are on a schedule somewhere deep inside Cinebook? Is the story complete in 10 books, or is it still going?

      Reply

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