Alone v8 The Arena cover detail by Bruno Gazzotti and Usagi

Alone v8: “The Arena”

It’s bread and circuses for the “Alone” kids from Campton in this volume: Cross the Romans with a bit of the Nazis, and run an obstacle course the likes of which only a bunch of kids could come up with.

At stake: Freedom versus slavery.

Also, it’s a lot of fun, with more mysteries explained and a couple of big surprises along the way.

A Challenge for the Credits

Alone v8 The Arena cover by Bruno Gazzotti and Usagi
Writers: Fabien Vehlmann
Artist: Bruno Gazzotti
Colorist: Usagi
Letterer:Design Amorandi
Translator: Jerome Saincantin
Published by: Cinebook
Number of Pages: 56
Original Publication: 2013

Previously, in Alone Reviews….

Alone v1 cover featuring Dodzi
Alone v2 Master of Knives cover by Gazzotti
Alone v3 cover with the shark
Alone volume 4 cover by Bruno Gazzotti
Alone v5 cover by Bruno Gazzotti
Alone v6 cover by Bruno Gazzotti
Alone v7 cover by Bruno Gazzotti

When I first started reading and reviewing this series, I was happy to not get involved in a big mythology arc kind of thing. We’re into that now, for sure, but I’m liking it. I think it has to do with the fact that it’s so controlled. Answers do come, piecemeal, and Fabien Vehlmann seems to know what he’s doing and where he’s going.

This volume continues that trend.

Alone v8: What’s Going On?

We pick up where we left off at the end of the seventh volume. The kids successfully survived the hellpit of their hometown, only to be picked up by some mysterious people in togas who bowed in font of — Saul?!?.

There’s a whole new civilization’s worth of kids in another town, not too far away. And they’ve set themselves up in a way the Roman emperors of old would enjoy. There’s a class system and a whole cruel way to manage who gets to be in what class.

Work against the system and your punishment could be harsh. Lose a challenge and you’ll be plowing the fields. Prove your brilliance and you can join the mean overlords you wouldn’t want anything else to do with.

In Alone v8, the evil one must be found.

But to start, we learn about the 15 Families, what this group of kids believe is going on, and how the kids from Campton are to be feared by them.

Also, one of them might be touched by evil and must be dealt with — if only they can figure out who that is. Oh, but they can. They have a severed hand to help.

Crazy, right?

Why 13 Year Old Me LOVES This Book

The obstacle courses in Alone v8 are no laughing matter.

This is a book aimed at the tweens or teenagers. It’s serialized in the pages of “Spirou”. It features kids of that same age. This is Young Adult fiction in comics form. It’s part “Harry Potter” and part “Hunger Games.” It even has elements of “The Walking Dead” in it.

That shows up in this book more than ever.

This is a book filled with challenges. It moves fast, after an initial exposition dump to exaplin the new city the kids find themselves in.

The kids are faced with multiples rounds of challeneges, each one more devilishly fiendish than the last. There’s bike races over pipes as wrecking balls are thrown at them. There’s a video game challenge that involves getting whacked with sharp metal sticks when you lose health. There’s a shooting challenge that involves lots of fire.

There’s also a surprising round of poetry that’s a wonderful change of pace. Vehlmann and Gazzotti stop the book dead in its tracks for a page and change the entire tone of the book. The crowd in the scene falls silent, and so will your mind as you read it. You’d hear a pin drop as you read along, being both surprised and delighted.

Alone v8 features the world's most dangerous paintball game as its climax.

It all leads up to the ultimate challenge, where the kids fight for their freedom in a very serious game of paintball that could leave them disabled, blind, or dead — if they’re lucky. You can see a preview of it on the cover. It’s run and gun, complete with full body armor and wargame tactics.

It’s a video game with strategy and logic, beautifully illustrated and clearly laid out.

This book is a series of moments that would pump the adrenaline of thirteen year old me. Honestly? It still works to this day. I loved this book for all of thos reasons. Every situation has consequences. Every action moment has an over-the-top twist.

It’s just a lot of fun.

The Mythology of Alone

Along the way, the overall mythology of the book moves forward. There are subtle callbacks to earlier volumes. Who remembered their own deaths first, for example? Remember that time Saul commanded a tank and it did surprising things? You’ll find out why here.

More new breadcrumbs are laid down right at the beginning of this book that will be directly followed up in the next volume.

“Alone” is a book that moves. There’s no break here. It’s terrific serialized storytelling that comes at you in one complete story at a time. These books do a great job in being part of a larger whole, but also in telling self-contained episodes on their own.

Bruno Gazzotti is Solid

Now THAT is an establishing shot…

Gazzotti is an amazing artist. At first blush, this work might look simple and straightforward, but that’s the strength of the work and the hardest thing to do.

Gazzotti is consistent. I never look at one of these books and think, “You can see where he ran out of time on the last few pages. That page got sloppy.”

You never look at a page and think, “Here are all the hacks he used to get the page done on time.”

You can’t look at the book and think, “This character’s face looks different between panels.”

No, everyone is consistent, and it’s a testament to Gazzotti’s skill and focus that all that happens.

But let’s talk about the “stigma” of being “straightforward.” There’s nothing simple in this book. Take a look at the panels again and you’ll see just how much detail he includes, and how much of it is useful in placing characters in the right geography and in the proper relationship to one another. Gazzotti positions his camera and the people in the perfect way every time to tell the story in a way that you won’t ever stumble across a scene. It will all be blatantly obvious to you, as a reader.

Coloring “Alone”

And let’s not leave Usagi out of this section. Usagi’s colors match the art beautifully. It’s one of the most literal coloring jobs I see in comics these days, and it works

The mood and intensity are still there, through the art and the lighting choices. You don’t need keyed colors or color overlays or rampant line holds to tell the story. The coloring keeps the pen and ink lines the primary means of storytelling.

Usagi doesn’t do too many fancy tricks with the coloring in this volume. There are gradients, but they’re used for shadows. The color choices are perfect, pushing the backgrounds away and the character towards he reader.

Along the way, the lighting keeps the story in focus and makes things feel more natural. Even in dark scenes, everything is crystal clear. Too many colorists get too fancy with dark scenes and everything turns to mud. That never happens here.

I’m Having Flashbacks

From “Alone” v8:

From "Alone" v8, Saul is introduced to a model of  Neosalem

Saul is introduced to a rather large model of the town of Neosalem.

From “Mansions of the Gods,” the 17th volume of “Asterix“:

Julius Caesar over a model of a town from "Asterix" v17: "The Mansions of the Gods"

Julius Caesar plans out his new city, once he topples Asterix’s village.

The influence of Roman history on the leaders of Neosalem is not unintentional.


Alone v8 The Arena cover by Bruno Gazzotti and Usagi

Yes! I mean, you’ll want to have read the first seven books to understand more of what’s going on. That’s OK; they’re well worth it.

In truth, I’m reviewing this book a few months after reading it for the first time so I can get the series back fresh in my memory to read volumes 9 and 10. The tenth volume is due out next month digitally, though I do have a print edition of it in my hands already. Stay tuned…

— 2019.036 —

Buy It Now

Published by Cinebook, “Alone” is available in print versions, as well. If you’re a comiXology Unlimited subscriber, the first four books are included for you to read today!

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  1. Amazing reviews… Just discovered this site. you are showing me BD that i never knew existed. Thank you