European Comics Spotlight: “Orbital” by Sylvain Runberg and Pellé Serge

British publisher Cinebook occasionally runs “Spotlight” features for its long-running English language editions of French bandes dessinées, and has given welcome promotion to the brilliant SF saga, Orbital, by Sylvain Runberg and Pellé Serge.

Originally published by French publisher Dupuis, aimed at readers twelve and older, the series now runs to eight volumes, the most recent, Contacts, published in 2020. Cinebook will also be publishing the new spin-off series, Outlaws, which launched earlier this year in France.

Orbit Volume One - Scars (Dupuis edition )

The series, set in the 23rd century, centres on an initially uneasy partnership of Caleb, a Human, and Mezoke, a Sandjarr, paired up and trained as special agents to keep the intergalactic peace. They are representatives of two species, Humans and Sandjarrs, only recently allowed to join an intergalactic multiracial organisation set up 8000 years previously.

Humans are seen as a belligerent, underdeveloped race by the other members of the organisation and have been kept out of it until now. The Sandjarrs had stayed out of interplanetary politics until a war between themselves and Humanity broke out. Caleb and Mezoke’s pairing is a controversial and historic alliance, and a lot of people are watching them…

Art from Orbital by Pellé Serge

“One thing a lot of sci-fi series have in common is to put Humans at the centre of whatever political instances will be in place in their fictional future,” note Cinebook. “From the racist, Human-first Empire in Star Wars to the benevolent, Human-driven Federation in Star Trek, we, the readers have kinda grown used to being important.

“But Sylvain Runberg, the author, took the opposite approach, and made us the pariahs, the latecomers, the second-class citizens of his Confederation. And it’s both a refreshing take, and a fantastic source of inspiration for his stories.

Art from Orbital by Pellé Serge

“Don’t worry, though. There’s still plenty of alien presence and action involved, and it all gives the talented Serge Pellé endless opportunities to show off his talent and imagination in style!

“If you ever watched the Star Wars prequel trilogy and thought ‘I’d kinda like more of that, only, you know, smart …’, then Orbital is definitely what you were looking for.”

The first episode of the Orbital spin-off series, Outlaws, the adventures of Caleb’s sister, a renegade fighting against extraterrestrial mafias, was published in August by Dupuis, featuring art by Eric Chabbert. Cinebook have confirmed they’ll be publishing the series, but a release date has yet to be announced.

There are more details of all the English language Orbital books on Cinebook’s website

Orbital – A Checklist

Cinebook has been publishing Orbital since 2009. The following volumes have been released. Please be aware that the reviews we have linked to may contain spoilers.

Orbital Volume One: Scarspublished May 2009 ISBN 978-1-905460-89-2

In the 23rd century, the humans and the Sandjarrs are allowed to join an intergalactic multi-racial organisation set up 8,000 years before. The humans are seens as a belligerent, underdeveloped race by the other members of the organisation and had been kept out until now. The Sandjarrs had stayed out of interplanetary politics until a war between themselves and the humans broke out. Now Caleb, a human, and Mezoke, a Sandjarr, are paired up and trained as special agents to keep the intergalactic peace.

Read a review by Roy Boyd on Slings and Arrows

Orbital Volume Two: Ruptures - published July 2009 ISBN 978-1-905460-95-3

Orbital Volume Two: Ruptures – published July 2009 ISBN 978-1-905460-95-3

The first mission of Caleb and Mezoke is to keep a war from breaking out between humans and Javlodes on the planet Senestam. Caleb acts as a mediator between the warring factions while dealing with an attack by Stilvulls (highly destructive insects) – and he also has to contend with his feelings for charming Dr. Kim Vandersel. His partner, Mezoke, is on the planet Upssal, trying to appease the Javlodes – whose empire Senestam is part of.

Orbital Volume 3 - Nomads

Orbital Volume Three: Nomadspublished May 2011 ISBN 978-1-84918-080-1

Caleb and Mezoke are on Earth for celebrations marking the end of the Human-Sandjarr wars, running security for the ceremonies. When an incident occurs between Malaysian fishermen and a nomadic alien species called the Rapakhun, they are brought in to investigate and to lead negotiations. But tensions are high – and something is killing the fish in the mangrove swamp. The two agents will have to contend with the humans’ lingering mistrust towards aliens in their efforts to solve the mystery.

Read a review by Jeremy Briggs on downthetubes

Orbital Volume 4 - Ravages

Orbital Volume Four: Ravages – published July 2011 ISBN 978-1-84918-088-7

The unexplained deaths in the mangrove have not deterred authorities: The ceremonies will go on as planned in Kuala Lumpur, despite Mezoke’s resistance and growing disagreement with Caleb. But the official optimism is soon dampened by news of further destruction, closer to the city. And when Nina and Angus return with the identity of the killer, an old enemy of the Confederation, the agents will be forced to act in desperation – and, maybe, to pay the ultimate price.

Read a review by Jeremy Briggs on downthetubes

Orbital Volume Five: Justice - published February 2014 ISBN 978-1-84918-172-3

Orbital Volume Five: Justice – published February 2014 ISBN 978-1-84918-172-3

Following the Kuala Lumpur incidents, which almost prevented the Human-Sandjarr reconciliation ceremony from being held, the situation on Earth is increasingly tense. The mood has turned ugly, resulting in attacks against aliens and assassinations of isolationist personalities. Meanwhile, the circles of Confederate powers are afire with political manoeuvring, and Mezoke is on trial for high treason, a convenient scapegoat. But when the judges request that Caleb be brought out of his regenerative coma to testifty, the Sandjarr’s agent’s loyalty is put to the test.

Orbital Volume Six: Resistance - published August 2015 ISBN 978-1-84918-262-1

Orbital Volume Six: Resistance – published August 2015 ISBN 978-1-84918-262-1

After fleeing Confederate space, Caleb and Mezoke are hiding among a community of exiles disgusted by the corruption and violence infecting the galactic government. Caleb is recovering slowly, just as Angus, the living ship, is doing on a different world. But a powerful, dangerous psychic link seems to exist between them, and all are actively hunted by both the authorities and a terrorist group. When running ceases to be the answer, the only option left is resistance.

Read a review by Roy Boyd on Slings and Arrows

Orbital Volume Seven: Implosion - published November 2017 ISBN 978-1-84918-378-9

Orbital Volume Seven: Implosion – published November 2017 ISBN 978-1-84918-378-9

After the events in Stockholm, Caleb and Mezoke have become renegades and are hunted by the entire Confederation. Inevitably they end up on Tetsuam, a gigantic itinerant space station that’s the capital of crime in the galaxy. But while they attempt to sort out a future for themselves, and as Confederate space is recovering from the civil war, the Neuronomes – sentient ships previously thought eradicated – appear to launch random, devastating suicide attacks that kill thousands…

Read a review by Roy Boyd on Slings and Arrows

Orbital Volume Eight: Contacts - published April 2020 ISBN 978-1-84918-497-7

Orbital Volume Eight: Contacts – published April 2020 ISBN 978-1-84918-497-7

It’s clear now: the Neuronomes are not attacking the Confederation, but rather are the victims of a mysterious aggressor, and they explode when they die. They did, however, take up positions near large population centres, threatening to take thousands of lives with them when they go in order to pressure Confederate authorities – who had once massacred them – into helping them. Unsurprisingly, Caleb, Mezoke and Angus are chosen to go to the Neuronomes’ home planet and neutralise the unknown threat

Read a review by Roy Boyd on Slings and Arrows

There is more information on the original French language Orbital books on Dupuis’ website (in English)

Outlaws Tome 1 – Le Cartel des cimes – published August 2022

Outlaws Tome 1 - Le Cartel des cimes - published August 2022

First episode of Orbital‘s spin-off, the adventure of Caleb’s sister, an outlaw fighting against extraterrestrial mafias.

Confederate space. Year 2779. A ship commanded by Commander Grello arrives in view of Lugmila Airport. On board: a load of illegal immigrants, fleeing from their respective planets, who are forced to work six months for the terrible Cimes cartel, the mafia that organised their passage. Among these outlaws, a mysterious human, representative of a race known for being the last to join Confederation. Taciturn and stubborn, she will find herself at the heart of an incredible power struggle from which the Cimes cartel may not come out victorious. But she, perhaps, may…

Outlaws Tome 1 - Le Cartel des cimes

Outlaws enables Orbital fans to explore galactic mafias strangely similar to ours from the inside. Space opera, societal criticism, thriller and portrait of a furiously independent young woman: a classic future, featuring the remarkable art of Eric Chabbert.

  • Outlaws Tome 1 - Le Cartel des cimes
  • Outlaws Tome 1 - Le Cartel des cimes
  • Outlaws Tome 1 - Le Cartel des cimes
  • Outlaws Tome 1 - Le Cartel des cimes

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.



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