Review: Antares Episode 1 / Written by: LEO / Illustrated by: LEO / Published by: Cinebook / Release Date: Out Now
The Antares series is a continuation of the sprawling sci-fi brainchild of Brazilian artist, Leo, picking up the story directly after the events of the Aldebaran and Betelgeuse series.
Mankind are taking their first steps towards the colonisation of the galaxy. Scouting missions are sent to potentially habitable worlds, so that they can be assessed to see if they are suitable for humans to populate. Unfortunately, space travel is expensive and if a new world proves to be too dangerous for colonisation, then the scouts are left to fend for themselves on the planet, with no possibility of rescue.
When a survey team on the planet Gj-1211-5 (otherwise known as Antares) encounters a strange and disturbing phenomenon, instead of cancelling the project, the corporation in charge of the project tries to recruit Kim, the hero of Aldebaran and Betegeuse, to investigate the problem. Unfortunately for them, Kim has become something of a recluse and wants no part of the mission, at least, not at first.
I've not read the preceding books in the Worlds of Aldebaran series, so had no idea what to expect with this one, and was a little concerned that I would be coming into a sprawling epic with no clue as to who the characters were, or what was going on. Fortunately for me, the events of the previous books are recounted in flashbacks and conversations on a number of occasions, so I was able to pick up the story without any difficulty.
The world that Leo has created is rather impressive, with the landscapes, flora and fauna of the alien world drawn in a detailed yet simplistic style that is for the most part, very effective and nice to look at. The art is less impressive when it comes to the human characters, however. While facial expressions and emotions are very well done, there is something odd about the way that the humans are presented. I think the problem is that there is a lack of dynamism and movement when he draws humans, which makes scenes feel a little static in places.
Similarly, the plot is complex, with a number of different threads going on at the same time, and there is an awful lot of background information presented, which is quite impressive. I can't remember ever seeing a graphic novel with appendices describing the technical details of the worlds and technology. For the most part, this detail is interesting and adds to the overall plot, however the pacing of the whole thing is rather slow and ponderous in places. Things are not helped by the exposition I mentioned previously. While I was fresh to the series, even I found it dragged a little when the characters broke into another long conversation about what happened in the previous books. If I'd read the earlier volumes, then I'd probably have gotten quite annoyed that they were rehashing the old content, rather than getting on with the story. It's telling that by the end of the first book, Kim has not even arrived on Antares.
Those niggles aside, Antares: Episode 1 is an intelligent, intriguing piece of science fiction. I wouldn't say that it quite lives up to the cover blurbs claim that it is "one of the most fantastic saga's ever written by man", but it held my attention and I'm interested enough that I will be picking up the next book in the series, and maybe even the earlier ones. I just hope that the pace picks up on the second book, and it lays off the exposition, otherwise my new found interest in the series is likely to die a rather early death.