Review by Karl Verhoven
At face value Episode 3 successfully completes the story of Kim Keller travelling to yet another new planet, meeting a new civilisation and sorting out the political difficulties on Aldebaran. However, as ever with Leo’s Aldebaran series, it’s not as simple as that.
To begin with the positive, there are surprises, there’s a technological leap, the origin of humanity is explained and although Leo’s people are a little stiff, their expressions are warm and the best qualities of humanity are those that win through. That’s accompanied by a pleasing sense of justice over an incident from years previously not reflecting the best of humanity, and cleverly positioned to endanger the peaceful integration of humans with alien contact. More than any other book in Return to Aldebaran, Leo designs fascinating alien creatures, some only seen for a single panel. It’s a welcome return for a series trademark. One is seen on the cover, but for the internal sequence Cinebook have added a bikini. It’s a polarising procedure. Should the original art be sacrosanct? Equally, though, the scene is gratuitously set up to feature a naked young girl, so which is the lesser of two evils?
However, Leo’s individual method of comic creation is a flawed process. He has no sense of pacing, nor of how to isolate the moments necessary to keep the story flowing, the sample page representing this. He also introduces people for the moment, and discards them once their purpose has passed. Alex was dead weight in Episode 1, but picked up the trade of official chronicler to the party trapped on an alien planet in Episode 2. His wife Marie was essential over the first two episodes, yet is relegated to the background here until a clumsy couple of panels updates readers at the end. Explaining the origin of humanity is a five page info-dump over the final seven pages, and some aspects of what happens are left without explanation. In this sense Return to Aldebaran is true to life, but more information about the creature seen on the cover and what it can do would have been desirable. Finally, as ever, some of the dialogue is just so staged. Again, that’s seen on the sample art, but it’s relatively constant. “I wanted to talk to you, to tell you what happened when we were on your planet”, says an alien woman. “Oh good!”, replies Kim, “That’s a topic we really wanted to discuss”. It conveys what’s needed, but rings false.
The clumsiness overshadows what’s a philosophical series investigating big questions from a perspective largely unseen in graphic novels. Here the presence of aliens isn’t an excuse for conflict, but an exercise in bridging differences to forge co-operation, and that’s admirable.
Leo has several continuing series on the go, and after this picked up Kenya again, so it may be a while before Kim and her supporting cast return.