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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Orbital Volume 3: Nomads. Sylvain Runberg (Writer), Serge Pelle (Art), Jerome Saincantin (Translation) Cinebook (2011)

Wonderful adventure science fiction that mixes the politics of interglacial species co-existing with smart action. Caleb, a human and Mezoke, a Sandjarr, are agents and partners in an intergalactic organization that promotes and supports peace. Both are on Earth, in Malaysia to supervise security at a celebration to mark the end of the Human-Sandjarr wars. When a group of nomadic aliens disrupt a fishing fleet in in Malaysian waters a major diplomatic incident becomes possible. While Caleb and Mezoke resolve the situation sufficiently to allow the celebrations continue, tension remains and become very dangerous when the fishermen return to the aliens camping grounds and have a disaster. The situation becomes increasingly complicated as both Caleb's and Mezoke's past actions cast a shadow over the present. The reveals are very well staged, the plot is clever and sharp and the story end with enough hooks to pull the reader on to the next volume.
Comics are a natural platform for science fiction, with an unlimited effects budget they can bring the widest range of situations to life easily and effectively. What is harder is to balance the small scale of effective story telling, giving the reader something to care about along with the grand, widespread context that science fiction can provide. Sylvain Runberg manages the balance superbly, the mix between the cast, human and alien, and the scale of the context is great. One of the most effective things he does is to equalise the humans and aliens by occupation, the alien nomads, the Rapakhun are fishermen just like the humans they encounter, the context draws them together and pushes them apart at he same time.
In the organisation that Caleb and Mezoke work for, they are agents among a wide range of other agents and officers, this allows for the differences between the species to be less important than the organisational politics that surrounds them. The personal backgrounds of both Caleb and Mezoke are important and give them both room for conflict and difference which allows them to be  more fully realised characters too. The way that politics, personal, local, intergalactic all swirl throughout the story provide a very effective context that adds greatly to the story and drives the action.
Serge Pelle's art is a joy, it gives the detail that makes the future credible and a solid and effective physical location for the action as well as providing an expressive cast that communicate with gesture, expression, body language as well as words. The non-human cast are given subtly human expressions and attitudes that gives them room to be different and still readable and so contributing to the story. The world looks lived in, the colours are used to give it the sense of a working future where making a living is still vitally important.
High grade, thoughtful science fiction, a great pleasure.

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