Alone is an utterly compelling and creatively stimulating horror series featuring young children in unpleasant situations caused by their peers. Lord of the Flies the nearest touchstone for mood, but this is no Asterix or Lucky Luke where you can pick up any volume and figure things out. Fabien Vehlmann’s creepy imagination keeps flinging in new situations over what’s a prolonged discovery process, so readers really need to start with The Vanishing when five children awaken and realise there’s no-one else left in the world. That’s actually a misconception from which Vehlmann and ever-present artist Bruno Gazzotti keep complicating matters and adding to the cast. Here, via scientific genius Anton, they broaden into quantum speculation. It’s a heady brew for a young adult series.

The Nailers in the Night begins by featuring two of the original cast, Camille and Ivan. Regular readers are aware The Machine for Undying revealed the identity of a being known as the Midnight Child. It’s a seemingly malign entity, and certainly behaves that way, but Vehlmann’s pulled the rug away plenty in the past, so it may be too soon to judge definitively. What is certain is that Ivan, who’s deliberately maintained a distance, is in serious danger. Gazzotti’s sample art shows the threat.

It’s one of several happenings that may stretch the definition of what’s acceptable for a younger audience as we see cast members undergoing either mental or actual torture, and committing acts no child should have to. “I’ve never needed my friends’ help so badly” is the closing line of dialogue to what’s been another attention-grabbing episode setting us up for even worse to come. In some ways it’s a holding pattern as much of the cast are as they were, except worse off. We only see original cast members Dodzi, Leila and Terry briefly, but none of them is in a good way. By the end, though, there appears to have been one small victory, although at a cost. Except with Vehlmann we’re never sure, and that’s why Alone is such a great series.

The Rebels of Neosalem is due next.