Review by Frank Plowright
We were introduced to Kathy Austin in Kenya. She’s a British secret agent operating in Africa in the late 1940s. Attractive, resourceful and smart, she was nonetheless rather thrown for a loop when prehistoric creatures began appearing in the veldt, and her persistent investigation eventually led to confirmation of alien involvement and the revelation of their purpose.
Another of Kathy’s job qualifying characteristics is a steely determination. She doesn’t back down in the face of intimidation, which is bad news for disgraced secret agent Major Bowley, shuffled off to the remote former German territory of Namibia and a seething stick insect of resentment and bad attitude. Not that he singles out Kathy for his bile, which is equally spread around the native population, other women, and all foreigners. Not the discreet presence really needed, in fact, when the supposedly dead high ranking Nazi Hermann Göring has been photographed in the country.
Rodolphe (Jacquette) and Leo (Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira) have selected a fascinating region as their title location. Until they lost World War I, Namibia was a German colony, after which it was administered by South Africa. A large German population remained, however, and they broadly supported Nazi policies, making it a dangerous and unwelcoming place for other Europeans in the late 1940s. There’s a further problem. Attempts to stimulate crop growth in a notoriously dry area are being hampered by the presence of exceptionally large insects, grown to a previously unknown size.
Artist Leo’s signature element, both in the previous Kenya and his other works, has been his great designs for strange creatures, be they alien or prehistoric, and such creatures are largely absent in this book, insects notwithstanding. So is Leo’s art, this story being drawn by Bertrand Marchal, who’s also excellent using a more naturalistic form of the ligne claire art common to European graphic novels. He’s great at presenting subtle touches indicating a character’s emotions. In other hands Bowley could be a John Cleese style caricature, but Marchal ensures he stays the correct side of the credibility line despite being appalling by modern day standards. Marchal’s period vehicles are consistently well drawn from Bowley’s truck to the stylish and top of the range Jaguar XK120 used by MI5’s British staff, and the locations all convey the correct sense of opulence or poverty.
If there’s a quibble about this generally intriguing opening episode it’s that it’s set in an African country, and stops just short of lecturing to highlight the social inadequacies of the time, yet there’s not a single Namibian character in the role of anything other than background artiste. The nearest we come is the admittedly interesting half-European Robert McDonald.
By the end of the book Leo and Rudolphe have introduced enough puzzling activity to ensure any reader will want to pick up Episode 2, so job very well done.