Alone volume 1: The Vanishing


By Gazzotti & Vehlmann, translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-849181-96-9 (PB Album)

Fabien Vehlmann was only born in 1972 yet his prodigious canon of work (from 1998 to the present) has earned him the soubriquet of “the Goscinny of the 21st Century”. He entered the world in Mont-de-Marsan and grew up in Savoie, growing up to study business management before taking a job with a theatre group.

In 1996, after entering a writing contest in Le Journal de Spirou, he caught the comics bug and two years later published – with illustrative collaborator Denis Bodart – a mordantly quirky and sophisticated portmanteau period crime comedy entitled Green Manor. From there on his triumphs grew to include – many amongst others – Célestin Speculoos for Circus, Nicotine Goudron for l’Écho des Savanes and major-league property Spirou and Fantasio

Bruno Gazzotti is Belgian, born in 1970 and was a student of Institut Saint Luc in Liège. Another artist addicted to comics from his earliest years, he started being paid to draw them in 1988, after being hired by Spirou editor Patrick Pinchart on the strength of his portfolio alone. Before long he was illustrating Le Petit Spirou with Tome & Janry. In 1989, he and Tome created New York Cop Soda, which kept Gazzotti busy until 2005, when he resigned to co-create award-winning feature Seuls

Released in January 2006, Seuls – La disparition is a superb example of a kids’ thriller suitable for all ages: evoking the eerie atmosphere of TV series Lost and the most disturbing elements of Philip Wylie’s The Disappearance and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

Translated as The Vanishing, the first chapter show us peeks of an ordinary bustling town, with simple folk going about their business. Our swift glimpses show us a cross section of kids: Ivan, an imaginative child of wealth who wants for nothing but never sees his dad any more and Leila, a born engineer, inventor and tinkerer. Her poor but honest dad always has time to play and critique her latest gadget…

Camille is studious and over-focussed on exams and achievement and Terry is pretty much still a baby. He certainly acts like one, trying to stay up late, binge watching TV and throwing tantrums if he doesn’t get his way.

Sadly, not all children in town have such typical lives. Dodzi has just been taken into the system. His early life has made him tough and resilient but won’t stop the other young inmates handing him a beating on this ominous, odd-feeling night…

Next morning dawns overcast and forbidding. The city is quiet. Roaming empty streets, Dodzi calls out to anybody who can hear and is met – or actually run over – by Leila and Terry on her bike. They are all pretty scared and have seen nobody else at all…

No one else is around. All the adults have gone, and all their child pals. The internet is down, television and radio only blare out static. Above, fearsome storm clouds gather. Within minutes fear turns to panic and violence but eventually Dodzi brutally enforces calm and leads them away, only to stumble into Camille being attacked by a dog. As the tough guy tries to fight it off, the rabid beast senses something in the shadows of an alley and flees…

As they wander, someone watches the waifs and after they joyously blow off steam in a fountain, they meet final lost boy Ivan. He invites them back to his mansion on the edge of town where they find food while being subjected to his theories on what’s happened: everything from a shared dream to an extinction event to the possibility that they’re dead and in hell…

Needing more information, Dodzi and Leila try to drive one of many cars on the estate while the smaller ones sort out a proper meal, but neither task goes well. The cooking is a disaster while the near-lethal reconnaissance only finds more empty streets, wrecked shop fronts and wild animals in the streets. While the motoring minors seek to evade two rhinos, Terry and Camille are almost eaten by a white tiger that’s got through the estate gates…

When Dodzi and Leila return – and following a burst of viciously released tensions – the kids modify and weaponize a 4 by 4 and head back to town. Ivan’s dad owns the tallest building in the city: somewhere stuffed with resources and easily fortified and defended…

As the first day alone ends, the kids are bloated with vending machine snacks and playing in the vast office block’s upper reaches, but de facto leader Dodzi is still uneasy.

When Leia reports little Terry is missing, he heads out to search and finds to his horror where all the animals have come from: a scene of destruction that distracts him enough that a hidden stalker almost takes him.

Thankfully, the others have ignored his orders and followed so it isn’t Dodzi that dies…

Thus begins a spooky, powerful and often shocking tale of mystery and imagination with the bereft children facing increasingly daunting physical hazards and an escalating series of events which can have no logical or rational explanation…

Alone rapidly became one of the biggest critical and commercial comics hits of the decade and if you love eerie enigmas and powerful tale-telling, you’ll soon be buying this and seeing why for yourself…
© Dupuis 2006 by Gazzotti & Vehlmann. All rights reserved. English translation © 2014 Cinebook Ltd.