Kenya – Apparitions is the first in a new series created by Leo and Rodolphe and translated into English by Cinebook.
Colonial Kenya in 1947 is a place for big game safaris and American pulp novelist John Remington is on one which fails to return to civilisation. Katherine Austin arrives in Mombasa on a flying boat from Britain ostensibly to take up a teaching place but in reality she has been tasked to investigate the disappearance of the safari party. Fellow teachers, German Konrad Fluchs and Frenchman Jacques Merlin, vie for the young and pretty Kathy’s affection although they may also be keeping secrets from the school principal. Introduced to pilot Hank Grabble by Konrad, Kathy takes several flights in his biplane airliner during which they discover the charred remains of an enormous flightless bird that local tribesmen imply was burned by a beam from a flying saucer.
This ongoing series is the combined work of Brazilian Leo (Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira) who is the sole creator of Cinebook’s Aldebaran/Betelgeuse/Antares series and Frenchman Rodolphe (Rodolphe Daniel Jacquette). Rather than being writer and artist they have split the work between them with Leo providing script and artwork whilst Rodolph provides script, layout and dialogue with colours by Scarlett Smulkowski. Leo’s Worlds of Aldebaran series is a favourite of mine although I’m not blind to its faults, one of which would be the lack of dynamism of the artwork; while Leo’s imagination for alien flora and fauna is impressive, his figure-work can be very static. Kenya overcomes this issue by having Rodolphe provide the layouts with Leo completing the artwork – and what a difference it makes. The art flows smoothly be it accurate aircraft, detailed big game animals, day-to-day life in the school, or Kathy’s multiple outfits.
The plot of this initial episode teases a lot with no explanation of the safari’s disappearance, Kathy’s true job, the eccentric Italian Count Di Broglie with a palace in the middle of nowhere, natives apparently seeing flying saucers, and of course those strange beasts. While this could all be potentially frustrating, the pair of creators manage to turn it into quite a page turner that while it always takes itself seriously does seem to have something of a knowing twinkle in its eye. From Jacques conning Konrad into helping him with something from his car so he does not leave him alone with Kathy, via Kathy’s enjoyment of Remington’s tacky novel, to the sumptuous bathroom in the Italian palace that Kathy cannot use because it is not plumbed in, there is much to smile at in Kenya.
Cinebook have recently started to run out of new titles in many of their long running adventure series – XIII is complete and both Largo Winch and Aldebaran/Betelgeuse/Antares have caught up with their French publications. While they have XIII Mystery and The Survivors (set in the Aldebaran universe) scheduled it is good to see them taking on Kenya as well. Originally published in France in 2001, this is the first of a five book series which was then followed by a sequel series called Namibia currently on its fourth book, so if it proves popular, and I hope it does, Cinebook have plenty to work their way through.
Kenya – Apparitions teases the reader with what could potentially be spies, flying saucers and extinct mega-fauna and, whether or not any or all of these turn out to be real, it certainly looks from this first installment that Kenya is going to be an entertaining ride for its readers.
There are more details of Kenya on the Cinebook website
Note that Kenya – Apparitions was originally scheduled for release in October 2014 but Cinebook’s website lists it as “in stock” now. It is also currently available as an e-book for Kindle
There are more details of the original French Kenya series on the Dargaud website (in French)