Regular Grovelers will be well aware of my fascination with Leo’s Worlds of Alderbaran series, which pits a group of interplanetary explorers against a range of hostile alien flora and fauna, with underlying sub-plots of how humanity is its own worst enemy. This new series from the bande desinée stalwart, in partnership with Rodolphe, carries a similar set of themes but sets them in the beautiful earthly surroundings of late 1940s Kenya.
The book opens with a hunting expedition. A Hemingway-esque writer drinks and shoots his way through the bush, abusing his wife and his travelling companions as he goes. But soon after they stumble across a bizarre, pre-historic-looking herbivore, towering over and sharing a tree-top lunch with a pair of giraffes, the expedition goes missing.
The book then jumps forward in time slightly, to the arrival of a new school teacher in a small Kenyan school. She causes a stir amongst the other young (male) teachers because she’s stunningly attractive, but she’s got an strangely keen interest in the disappearing hunters.
The plot thickens from there and, by the end of this first volume, we’re none the wiser as to who these and more characters really are, though a classic Leo cliff-hanger will have you scrambling for the next volume.
As ever, Leo’s illustration is lustrous, particularly the Kenyan scenery, with Kilimanjaro looming in the background; and his animals could be plucked from an anatomical reference book. His characters tend to a certain stiffness but this seems less out of place in this white, colonial Kenya than it did in the future worlds of Aldebaran. There’s a certain post-war stiff-upper-lip feel that suits his style nicely.
This is an intriguing first volume that feels rich in promise, as fresh as the original Alderbaran books and well worth dipping into. It’s a bit early in the series to give it a unmitigated recomendation but this is one I’ll be following with interest.