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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Orbital Volume 4: Ravages. Sylvain Runberg (Writer), Serge Pelle (Art), Jerome Saincantin (Translation). Cinebook (2011)

A brilliant piece of romantic science fiction and a great conclusion to the story. The peace conference being in Kuala Lumpur , to mark the end of the Human - Sanjarr war, is being overshadowed by mysterious deaths and the presence of a nomadic group of aliens, the Rapakhun. Caleb, a human and his partner Mezoke, a Sanjarr are responsible for the security of the conference. Caleb is determined to push ahead with conference, Mezoke is increasingly reluctant. Caleb's superiors agree to support him, giving him full responsibility for any failures. The deaths grow and start to include attacks within the city. When the identity of the attacker is established it escalates rather than resolves the situation. Caleb and Mezoke take a desperate action to deal with the problem. The story continues to twist and turn, balancing galactic politics with local affairs and the grand sweep of space opera with small , effective , moments. The conclusion is unexpected and sharp, nicely playing against a readers expectations.
Sylvian Runberg solves the problems of romantic science fiction and space opera with disarming ease, making it all look easy and natural. The wide reaches of space, the romance of the starts and the pull of the future are all present, nicely enmeshed in entirely believable bureaucratic complications and institutional, racial and personal politics. Alien races and humans do not just mingle at elevated planetary levels, they are also co-workers drinking in a bar working to take advantage of an unexpected situation. This gives the story a great context and detailed weight against which the plot can take place. The plot is suitably grand, the threads are pulled from different planets and have to be countered with a great science fiction solution.
The two leads, Caleb and Mezoke work together under increasing pressure from their own private histories and still striving to be professional. The supporting cast, including the smaller walk-on parts are all given an opportunity to shine.
Serge Pelle's art is a consistent joy, it is detailed and creates a solid physical environment that enables the story to fly. From the mangrove swamps to space, the cast get to inhabit a environment which gives their actions context and force. The cast themselves are varied, and full of motion and life. The body language and the physical movements are assured and natural, they interact with each other and their context wonderfully.
Orbital is the real deal, science fiction that takes the unlimited budget of comics and uses it with care, craft and tremendous precision. Not to be missed.

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