Start Each Day With A Song
By Léo (Translated by Luke Spear)
Léo’s science fiction graphic novel series Aldebaran was first serialized between 1994 and 1998. Aldebaran is available in English in three volumes: Volume 1 — The Catastrophe, Volume 2 — The Group, and Volume 3 — The Creature. The English translation is by Luke Spear.
Faster-than-light travel appeared to offer humanity an escape from worsening conditions on Earth. Only a single colony ship managed to deliver its settlers to the Earth-like world orbiting Aldebaran before contact was lost with Earth. In the century since, the colonists have done their best to create a viable civilization.
Colonist Mark Sorenson is determined to win the heart of Kelly Keller. Unfortunately for the love-smitten seventeen-year-old, Kelly has eyes only for hunky Lindon Gropius. It’s a painful situation that Kelly’s younger sister Kim is quick to mock.
Luckily for Mark, his romantic woes will soon be irrelevant.
The fisherfolk are practical people. When a stranger warns them of a mysterious creature seen in the coastal seas, they very sensibly ignore the warning. After all, if the largely unexplored world-ocean contained unknown monsters, wouldn’t they know? Then the enormous creature appears, engulfs the town, and dissolves all the tasty human tidbits within.
Only five people survive the catastrophe: the stranger who warned of the monster, Mark, Kelly, Kim, and the father of the two sisters. Foolishly rushing into the town to rescue his wife, the father dies as well. The town is lost. Mark, Kelly, and Kim must leave. As does the stranger, alone.
Kelly — who has never and never will love Mark — opts to travel to another small town where she and Kim have relatives. Mark decides it’s the capital city for him. Only after he is well on his way does Mark discover that the annoying Kim has stowed away on his wagon. How vexing! Surely the pesky girl will never be a love interest for mature Mark.
Misadventures follow, driven by the fisherfolk’s ignorance of life outside their small village. They didn’t fully comprehend that the planetary government is autocratic and its laws draconian. The laws are harshly enforced by a corrupt police force. The mysterious stranger is a wanted man, as he knows a secret the oligarchs would dearly like to possess; anyone who has met him is suspect. After several brushes with the law and near escapes from imprisonment, Mark and Kim are arrested and thrown in prison.
Three years pass.
An older and wiser Mark escapes from prison. It doesn’t take him too long to track down Kim (now an elderly sixteen or seventeen). The two must flee; escaping prison is, after all, illegal. Life on the run is harrowing. If Mark and Kim are to be safe, their government must be overthrown, something that seems unlikely indeed.
I am not crazy about the art but it’s functional enough.
The copyright is 1994+ but the worldbuilding in the comic reminds me of earlier SF. No modern SF author has any excuse planting a habitable world around Aldebaran, a red giant well off the main sequence1. This seems to be quirk of Léo’s; he has set other works on planets orbiting famous named stars, stars which are almost always unsuitable for habitable worlds.
Over the course of the three volumes, many of the planet’s mysteries are revealed and explained, in particular the nature of the vast entity that ate the town. The entity is dangerous but not willfully malevolent and becomes an ally in the struggle against the evil government.
Mark and Kim are largely uninterested in having adventures and making momentous discoveries. They (and Mark in particular) would much rather find acceptable employment and like-minded people with whom to hook up. It is as through they are horny teens unaware they are protagonists in an adventure novel. The author of the series is not on their side in this matter, forever sabotaging promising love affairs with such issues as the other person being completely uninterested2, the need to elude government manhunts, and mysteries on whose solution all life on the planet may depend.
Grumbling about the star aside, Léo is meticulous in his depiction of a thriving alien ecosystem, one that humans would have been well advised to better document before planting a colony. We get an interesting look at what the infrastructure of a world with this planet’s settlement pattern might have been. Humans have been limited by their lack of an industrial base, but have arrived with the technical know-how of a Earth society they left behind3.
I at first found it implausible that a world recently settled by a single shipload of people would have such a large population, but as I read on I discovered that the government is strongly pro-natalist and supports forced birth4. By the oddest coincidence, all the senior functionaries seem to be men.
Aldebaran is part of a long-running series. I look forward to future volumes.
Aldebaran’s three English volumes are available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Book Depository). Due to Chapters-Indigo’s current problems, I could not find Aldebaran there.
1: Aldebaran’s known world Aldebaran b does orbit within Aldebaran’s habitable zone … or rather, where that zone was when Aldebaran was sunlike main sequence star billions of years ago.
2: Having rejected Mark, Kelly ends up as a harried housewife and mother. When I say rejected, I mean “having never once considered him as an option, merely an annoying pest.” Mark’s inability to perceive “no, not now and not ever” as anything but “try harder” seems unfortunately believable.
Speaking of believable, there aren’t a lot of SF adventures in which an unexpected menstrual period happens while one is traipsing through wilderness, but this is one of them.
3: The century-long interregnum in spacefaring is revealed to have been caused by the loss of a colony ship and the subsequent discovery that FTL is much harder and more dangerous than first believed. Humans were lucky on their first few trips.
4: Currently, the heaviest weight of this policy falls on adult women prisoners. However, the government is working towards expanding the birth draft for all women.