Thursday, 29 January 2015

Alone Volume 1- the Vanishing, by Gazzotti and Vehlmann

Five children wake up one summer's morning to find their city almost deserted. Chancing upon each other in the street, Ivan, Leila, Dodzi, Camille and Terry form a survivor's group, wondering if their parents, siblings and normal lives will ever return. Until then they're going to have to work things out alone.

I really, really liked this book. It is European, which I feel really ignorant for saying as I can't be more specific at this juncture (it feels French?)- and its European-ness really comes across in the art style. The characters are really quite simply drawn, but they are expressive too- it's a really accessible and easy to read style that I think is going to be immensely popular. There's a really traditional and colourful Asterix-ish, Beano-ish funnies pages of the newspaper vibe to it which is almost soothing to the eyes. The publishers (Cinebook) say that "For many English-speaking readers, knowledge of European comic books is limited to the popular characters Tintin and Asterix." Which is pretty true I think, and I'm glad that this offering has made it onto the Stan Lee Excelsior Award list, as it will hopefully bring comics and graphic novels to new audiences, and new types of comics and graphic novels to an existing readership. Everybody wins.

This story starts with a normal, bustling day in the city; people making their way home from work or school, wandering through parks and markets and generally being carefree. We see the five characters in their various home environments- all seem unhappy to varying degrees. Ivan lives in a huge house, but the reader feels like he rarely sees his (presumably) busy parents. Dodzi is in boarding school and is assaulted by the other residents- he has a mysterious past and has presumably suffered a lot throughout his short life. Terry is a spoilt toddler who seems to drift from parent to parent with no stability or boundaries and Leila is frustrated with her parents' interfering in her hobbies. Camille is the only one who seems happy, but she buries herself in expectations and academic pursuits, so happy but stressed.

When everybody disappears, there's no pattern or reason. It seems to be practically everybody; kids, babies, adults, except the five that remain. I really liked seeing how each of the kids realised and reacts to the world they find themselves in- those that emerge as leaders or thinkers or practical deed-do-ers. It's a very tense, beautiful-to-look-at end of civilisation story that is completely big-audience friendly. No zombies so far, no plagues or fatal diseases, no technological far it's just a brilliant survival-based mystery and I'm really looking forward to the next volume and hopefully finding some answers.

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