Review by Karl Verhoven
The Survivors is connected to Leo’s ambitious Aldebaran saga, but occurs a considerable while beforehand, at the point where humanity is just establishing colonies on other planets. That’s the theory. In this instance there’s been a disaster and only a dozen teenagers of varying ages awaken from hibernation on an alien planet. They’re an antagonistic group from the start, quick to criticise and contradict, with some decidedly ill-informed mid-20th century attitudes about the roles and capabilities of women. The narrative voice is that of Alex Muniz, more considered than many of the others, able to absorb the bigger picture and to observe without acting. It makes him a far more valuable member of the community than he realises, as do his doubts.
Leo has something particular in mind for the greater story, but on the basis of this opening episode it’s puzzling why he’d take this diversion rather than focussing on the Aldebaran graphic novels. The major difference is that it concerns teenagers exploring a new world, but as to the threats they face, the discoveries they make and the discomfort they endure, there’s nothing indicating any great separation from his other series. The strengths and weaknesses of those are present here in similar measures. Leo’s brilliant at conveying nature in his art, at creating exotic, breathtaking new forms of life, and expressive when it comes to the cast. An occasional stiffness to his poses remains. His basic plot intrigues, but Leo’s weak at filtering the necessary elements, resulting in diminishing returns when it comes to the excitement on offer, and his dialogue in places is awkward and unconvincing. Would a teenager’s response to inquisitive teasing really be “As for Ilse, Max, no need to overstate that either. She was afraid, that’s all. I’m flattered that a pretty girl would seek my company, it’s true, but mostly she was scared to death”? There’s nothing natural about that, and it represents a problem with basic characterisation. This is a group of teens who awaken to learn that everyone else who accompanied them on their journey is dead, yet the sole element of grief is the youngest of them breaking down in tears.
A case could be made that this is the young adult version of Aldebaran, more obviously adventure oriented with the same artistic wonder, but featuring a cast intended to have greater appeal to a teenage readership, and so slightly dumbed down. As an opening episode it doesn’t suck the reader in as his other series have done, but does set the scene well enough for further investigation. By the end of this book the survivors have made considerable progress and have a collective aim, which leads smoothly into Episode 2.