‘AL15: The Adventure Begins’ is a gorgeous epic adventure hybrid graphic novel that stands apart from others in the best way possible. Lush, dynamic, and energetic art with painterly flares stand alongside detailed and perfectly used prose sections to bring this science fiction world to vivid life.
Telling stories can be done through a variety of wonderful mediums. Choosing just one can be the best for a story, but sometimes a combination allows for the birth of something truly amazing. That is very much the case for the hybrid graphic novel AL15 Vol 1: The Adventure Begins.
Writer and illustrator Steve De La Mare brings to life the story of a young woman dropped into a fantastical world not her own in this graphic novel that he described as “part graphic novel, part illustrated story and part art book.” The story has a lot of the fun aspects of any story where a protagonist ends up on the run in a strange new world, while also having some strong political messages in the foundation.
There are a number of pages that are similar to what many might think of as comic book/graphic novel style pages. Those with lots of art across the page and dialogue bubbles to showcase what the characters are saying or thinking in some cases. Beyond this is where the book begins to deviate.
A number of pages just have the imagery and caption style boxes that showcase a lot of the narration as well as some of the main character AL15 (birth name Andromeda Lewis). Other pages are a beautiful hybrid of the artwork as well as either half-page or full-page prose sections. These types of pages alternate and flow together like a well-choreographed dance in such an engaging way.
Overall, the story itself is simple in the aspect of AL15’s journey to try and avoid dangers and others and return home while getting swept up in helping free a people. On the other hand, when you get deeper into the lore and reasons for what happened further in the story it takes on a new light.
It speaks a lot to many of the things that we have seen happen in history and the different ways that these events are looked upon, depending on which side you fall upon. As well as the idea that sometimes the history you are taught about your home isn’t actually what happened, because history is too often sanitized and changed by those in power.
De La Mare’s artwork is just hands down beautiful. There is so much amazing detail paid to every single panel that brings so much realistic life to even the most fantastical elements. The coloring has a two-fold thing going on that is a sight to behold.
There are the parts of the color that is more solid fitting the detailed/realistic bent while at the same time whole portions highlighting every object are watercolor looking. In the sense that they might slightly blur around the edges and even end up outside the proverbial lines to add like a glow around the objects.
Even when the pages change the style is very much the same, combing some formation of the aforementioned art and color styles. What is different though is how one page can look like a dynamic yet static gorgeous, illustrated moment in time while the next page is the same but has an energy to it. This is achieved through the very creative uses of the paneling and the simple addition of the speech bubbles over the captions or prose pages.
As noted in the back material, De La Mare’s intentions were to create a book that could be read on a number of different levels. Within a few pages, it’s clear that these intentions were not only met but were exceeded greatly. Just flipping the pages and not reading you’ll get an overall story that is told through the images, only amplified once you include the bubbles or then include reading it all. Every piece together creates an experience that is so uncommon in the field of graphic novels that many of us come across in our lives.
AL15 Vol 1: The Adventure Begins is available in print and digital formats.