Return to Aldebaran is such a pleasant surprise. I'm a huge fan of Leo's Aldebaran cycle- a multi- volume graphic novel series from Cinebook- and after finishing the last sequence I wasn't sure if the story would continue. Imagine my delight when I discovered Return to Aldebaran Vol. 1. The basic gist of the series is that humanity has colonized a couple of worlds in the not-so-distant future, and have also made contact with an alien race- the Tsalterians. The aliens are a lot more advanced, however, and after observing humanity for some time have decided to limit all contact to one person- Kim Keller, the protagonist of the series. She was born on Aldebaran, the first colony established by humans on another planet, and she came to know the Tsalterians and even have a child with one.
Most of the books in the Aldebaran cycle are about Kim and her adventures, but the spin- off series The Survivors introduced Marie and Alex, survivors of an ill- fated colonization attempt. They crashed on a planet and had adventures of their own, including temporal storms that caused them to move forward over one hundred years in time, but they are now contemporaries of Kim, and indeed meet her in this one. Leo is bringing all the strands together- Kim and Marie become friends in this one, with Marie even becoming her bodyguard after two assassination attempts on Kim, and we also are learning more about the mysterious cube structure that was found on the western continent of Aldebaran.
Kim, for various reasons, is just about the only human the Tsalterians trust (for good reasons, it must be said)- indeed it appears that a central theme of this sequence is going to be how humans react when confronted with a superior species. Humanity has everything to gain yet the bulk of the population seems preoccupied with the aloof nature of the Tsalterians, and the fact that they spurn government-to-government contact. The fact that they only want to deal with Kim is not well regarded by the humans, and Leo may be making a not so subtle dig at the xenophobia we see in the current state of world affairs. To be honest, I liked this, and while I was dismayed at some of the humans' actions, it seems depressingly realistic.
The other thing going on here, as mentioned earlier, is a standard exploration story- humans (with assistance from the aliens) going through a portal in the cube structure to another world. Leo excels at portraying these other worlds- the planets explored in earlier sequences, such as Antares and Betelgeuse, were so fun to see realized on the page, and clearly here we're going to get more of the same. Naturally, things do not go well on the other side, and the volume ends with a cliffhanger as Marie is captured and Kim has to come back through the portal for assistance, only to find things have gotten worse in her short absence. Meanwhile, on the other side, the rest of the team sets up camp and prepares to look for Marie.
I love this whole series- the earlier Aldebaran stories, as well as The Survivors spin- off and especially the Betelgeuse sequence- and revisiting these characters (and having them all, finally, together) was like seeing old friends. I honestly think some of the most thoughtful science fiction is being done in books like this right now, and this is one of my favorite ongoing SF stories. I can't recommend this highly enough.