Alone v3 cover with the shark

Alone v3: “The Clan of the Shark”

Writer: Fabien Vehlmann
Artist: Bruno Gazotti
Colorist: Caroline & Ralph
Lettering: Design Amorandi
Translator: Jerome Saincantin
Published by: Dupuis/Cinebook
Number of Pages: 49
Original Publication: 2008


Yes, there’s a shark in the middle of France for this story.  Don’t worry; there’s a good reason for that. This is not a Sharknado cash-in…

Things Get More Serious

At first, I thought “Alone” would be a survival series.  The five kids get together, try to get along as best as they can, search for some answers, and have episodic adventures exploring empty France. “Real World Issues” get toned down for the sake of telling entertaining stories about kids in mortal peril, really, but let’s overlook that for a cracking good yarn, eh?

With the second volume, “The Master of Knives,” things got a little more serious. A person in a crazy mask carrying dozens of knives attacked Dodzi and the rest for seemingly no reason.  A rooftop chase is followed by a hotel fight, and things get deadly serious.

Now, there’s the third volume, where the kids have their bus moving. They’re taking their show on the road to look for answers.  In this volume, they run across a whole bunch of kids who’ve set up camp at a pirate theme park.  They have a leader: the son of the man who built the park.  And he’s a little scary in his bad tween self.

In Alone v3, we are introduced to Saul, the leader of a group of kids staying at a pirate theme park for safety

The question is, is Saul Barrie another Rick Grimes, or another David Koresh?

Seriously, this is where the book becomes “The Walking Dead for Kids,” but with a shark!  (We already had the tiger in the first volume…)

Just look at this panel where a pack of rabid dogs attack the bus and tell me you don’t see early days “The Walking Dead” there:

In Alone v3, rabid dogs mimic zombies when they attack the kids' bus

Sub in zombies for the rabid dogs and you’ll see what I mean.


Series Mythology

Fabien Vehlmann is slowly dropping hints that there is a background story to explain what happened with “the vanishing.”  There is a game plan.  The kids are busily trying to piece together a timeline of events, which seem to shift with each volume, but for good reasons.   In this volume, Saul claims to have special knowledge, but he is also the very best example of an unreliable character, so who knows?

I like how this is moving.  It’s going at a slow pace, and one that doesn’t force the issue. Things come up, but they aren’t forced.  The center of the story is not in finding out what happened, but rather in surviving that quest.  The details come up along the way, but they’re not completely reliable and they don’t always answer a question.

This is a messy quest, much like a real life quest would be.  You keep your eyes and ears open, pretend you have a plan, and survive long enough to piece together the clues to get to the answer.  Odds are, one day all the answers will just show up.  I’m looking forward to those, but I’m also enjoying the ride.

The last two pages of this book bring up a whole load of questions, including a possible revelation from Ivan from the night of The Vanishing, and a couple characters from the background who are more than they first appear.  Cue the musical sting.


An Interesting Set Piece

This whole book is basically a set piece.  It’s one that makes sense.  Of course kids would gather at a theme park in a world where the adults aren’t around.  Why not have fun?

Beyond that, Vehlmann’s script creates a deeply subversive and scary bit of society.  When the adults are gone, how far will the kids go?  Will their attempts to find new “adults” by way of a leader create something scarier that takes advantage of them?  And what will they accept to feel that “safety”?

Camille is creeped out by the shark who just ate.

Are kids this young — none of them seem older than about 13 or 14 — prepared to do what they must to survive? Camille couldn’t handle the site of a shark eating, for example.  What hope do the kids in the long term for everything else.

The pirate theme park our kids find themselves in takes the pirate theme a bit too far, but what’s scariest is the lack of fight amongst those who are trapped.  It’s a culture devoid of the feeling that it’s ok to rebel when the adult figure is really a monomaniacal creepy madman.

Saul fits the creepy bill perfectly.  He’s so serious, so straight-faced. The other kids can’t see him crack because that would mean admitting being imperfect, and that might cost him his role. He can justify anything under the “Means to Survive” clause, but it doesn’t make it right…

Saul sits in a chair straight out of "The Prisoner," where Leo McKern's Number Two character sat

It’s almost fitting that Saul has one of these egg chairs that make him look like Number Two from the original “The Prisoner” television series.

The Prisoner's Number Two had a similar chair

That can’t possibly be a coincidence, can it?  The more I think about it, the more Saul has turned the pirate theme park into The Village….


Boys vs Girls

There’s also a whole lot of gender wars and gender norm stuff going on in this book.  The roles are separated between the boys and girls in the usual predictable way, in ways that none of the kids ever really questioned. That is, until one of the Alone kids gets designated a girl for the purposes of classifications.

That’s just one of the ways this book gets a little weird, that’s not the weirdest, either.

Leila, of course, doesn’t take to this without a fight.

Gender roles in a society rules by 10 year olds

This is a community that’s ready for a disruption, and that’s what the Alone kids are going to bring…


The Little Thing That Will Drive Me Mad

You know how certain artists and writers have a tic that you don’t notice at first, but eventually you see and it drives you mad? Maybe it’s the way a writer uses the same turn of phrase every issue from a different character.  Maybe it’s a certain pose an artist tends to draw every character in by default. It might be the comic strip artist who has every character delivering a punchline doing so with eyes closed.  (I’ve seen that one.  It led me to stop looking at the last panel and just reading the balloons.)

I have one of those for “Alone.”  If you don’t want it to drive you nuts, skip to the next section now.

The rosy cheeks of every Alone character

Look at those cheeks.  Every character has rosy red cheeks.  It doesn’t even matter what color their skin is, they have pink cheeks every time.

Once you see it, you can’t avoid it. I’m sorry.

I don’t know if artist Bruno Gazotti is pencilling those in for the colorists to do, or if the colorists, Caroline and Ralph, are adding them in, themselves. But I can’t not see it anymore.

Gazotti’s artwork in the series is still stellar.  His style fits this book beautifully, keeping everything super clean and readable.  As I mentioned in my review of the first volume, the closest artist I can think of is Mauricet, who also specializes in drawing kids.

For my American readers, you can also see parts of the Archie style or maybe a little Craig Rousseau in here.  The heads and hands are a little larger and the necks are a little longer, which are all good techniques for drawing younger people. His ink line is great, though, with subtle thicks and thins differences, but a very confident line that remains clear.



Alone v3 cover with the shark

Yes.  This series is starting to get exciting now. More than just entertaining, as the first two books were, the third volume shows a remarkable amount of direction and seriousness.  There may actually be answers out there for the kids to find.  They were right to leave the city and not just wait for the answers to come to them.  And in a world without adult supervision and where Lord of the Flies may flourish, what kind of craziness might there be out in the world for the kids to find.  They found a colorful one here, but the next one might be even more scary serious.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #114.)


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