Amongst the monthly landslide that is the indie comics release schedule, a major provider of under-appreciated gems is Markosia. The latest to join this ever-growing list is AL15: The Adventure Begins, a spacefaring Original Graphic Novel by Steve De La Mare. But is this an out of this world read or will it fall back to Earth with a bump?
Writer: Steve De La Mare
Artist: Steve De La Mare
Price: Available in Hardcover for £22.99
AL15: The Adventure Begins tells the story of Andromeda Lewis, a 15th Generation cropper on the farming moon of Viridi Terram. Known as ‘AL15’ (which I assume is pronounced like ‘Alice’) due to the mark on her arm, her life is a simple one as she helps her people supply produce to the neighbouring Somnium Terram. However, while the rest of her people celebrate the annual ‘Pioneers Day’ and how their ancestors came to give life to the barren planets of this system, AL15 finds herself bored and wishing for more from her simple, humdrum life. However, when she befriends a drunken courier who drops the keys to his spaceship, AL15 takes advantage by ‘borrowing’ the ship for one great adventure, the likes of which she could never have imagined once it is underway.
Steve De La Mare has written an incredibly mesmerising story here, one which felt like a mash-up between Star Wars and Labyrinth. The layout, which is a combination of prose, comic and art book, is a little confusing here and there to follow but this takes little away from the immersive world that De La Mare has built. What I think makes this story truly incredible though is just how epic the plot feels, as AL15’s simple journey to find a way home becomes something much more complex as she learns the influence her ancestors have had on the previously thought hazardous world of Miror Terram. As a result, AL15 is very much a tale of growth as it’s main character, who starts this story as a naive yet likeable character who seemed very withdrawn, becomes someone who learns to stand for what she believes in and become a compassionate leader.
However, while De La Mare’s writing is captivating on its own merits, it’s the art which really makes this comic stand out amongst many of its peers. De La Mare’s art is incredibly surreal, almost to a psychotropic extent in some scenes, as he displays this alien world in a way that looks exactly like that. The characters, meanwhile, that make up this tale are also very unforgettable in their depiction; including a crazy spaceman, a village of short gardiner creatures that look like they were straight from Jim Henson’s workshop an evil queen with a very Witch-like appearance and a port of strange aliens that would give Tatooine’s cantina scene a run for its money. The look of this title is about as unique as it can get, with Mac Smith’s Scurry being the closest thing in similarity (but even that is a stretch), but it’s look is so phenomenally perfect for the story told that I’m not sure any other style would have done the material justice.
Markosia have a habit of finding diamonds in the rough (see Zero Jumper as an example) and with AL15: The Adventure Begins they have done it again. Steve De La Mare has created an emotional, engrossing and truly gorgeous comic book from the first page to the final one. While this works as a standalone works, the open ending offers a chance for us to return to this solar system, one which I hope De La Mare and Markosia honour us with in the near future.