Euro Reviews: ‘Alone’ Volume 11: A Brilliantly Dark Dystopian Series You Need To Read From The Beginning

by Richard Bruton

Five children wake up in a mysteriously deserted city. They must learn to survive – alone. That’s the tag-line for what has become an essential Euro series, albeit not one to pick up from this latest volume.

Alone takes the whole idea of a dystopian, deserted, abandoned world of Golding’s Lord Of The Flies and runs with it. Five children left to fend for themselves in a familiar world made alien and dangerous by the sudden disappearance of all other people, adults and children – the result is an excellent example of the idea done well.

First volume – the blackout.

That was yesterday.

Today is different…..

And the world of Alone is different, a city silent and empty, cars abandoned, doors still open, paper blowing across the street. The adults are, seemingly, gone. And from here, it’s a thrill ride as this disparate bunch come together, still children but allowed to become different, breaking out of their initial stereotypes. It’s very well done, the children seem very real, their reactions natural and understandable and of course we’re on their side from the go, a natural reaction to seeing children in danger.

We met the five kids pre-blackout in volume one, all five kids are stereotypes, but that’s useful in this sort of work, and these stereotypes wont last long, their characters merely fixed in the old world. Tomorrow is a very different day and each child will adjust and adapt. Back in volume one, we were introduced to them – lonely Ivan, of TV dinners and computer gaming nights and very busy working parents, budding engineer Leila always working on some project or other, studious Camille ignoring her family and working late into the night, and Terry, the baby of the group, a contrast to the older children who find themselves suddenly forced into more adult roles and responsibilities.

And then there’s Dodzi, ostensibly the hero, the loner, the care home kid, bullied and angry, yet all the things that mark him out as outcast in this old world are about to become the things that make him a naturally head-strong leader in what’s to come.

Vehlmann and Gazzotti have created a wonderfully dark world here, all about the idea of what would happen if the kids were in charge. The past volumes have explored so much, particularly concentrating on those ideas of what it means to be a child alone in this brave new world.

And believe me, Vehlmann doesn’t shy away from adult themes in this kid-based series. Sometimes, like below, it’s played slightly for laughs, but at other times it can chill you to the bone.

There’s a real darkness running all the way through Alone, a darkness that author and artist explore so well.

In the past, Dodzi’s group discover an entire new civilisation, ruled over by children who have been in the In-Between-World for a long, long time. And there’s the threat of the sinister Midnight Child, the herald of evil – revealed to be Camille. But her friend’s don’t know it, as they’ve all been scattered by events – Leila, imprisoned, Dodzi, captured by enemies, Ivan, presumed dead, and Terry, on his own.

This volume…

While trying to escape an avalanche triggered by the killers of the First Families, Ivan drowned. Though this is a less permanent problem that it used to be for the children, Ivan ‘returned’ far from his friends, in a small village in Brittany where he used to holiday with his parents. There he lives alone, preparing for the long trip back to Neo-Salem. Until the day Camille, now revealed as the Midnight Child, pays him a terrifying visit, and the nightmare begins …

And that’s where we come in, with things getting very, very strange indeed. This is a series where you really can’t just jump in, it’s something you need to really read from the first volume. You need to meet the kids, you need to dive into this new, nightmarish world, where kids have been thrust into adult roles, with all the horrors that could entail.

Volume 11 is basically a recurring nightmare of imagery and ideas, something that should fully be appreciated with reference to the entire series, that way you’re going to get the full brilliance and horror of the series, something that’s been building and building since the very beginning. It’s a wonderful, disturbing series and one you’re going to really enjoy.

Alone Volume 11 – The Nailers In The Night – written by Fabien Vehlmann, illustrated by Bruno Gazzotti, colours by Usagi, translated by Jerome Saincantin. Published by Cinebook, 2020.

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