Reviews: Valerian And Laureline – multiple times, multiple heroes, imagination way beyond Star Wars
Valerian And Laureline Volume 7: On The False Earths
Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres
I’ve managed to miss a couple of volumes of this sci-fi epic, and the early instalments didn’t fill me with the amazement I was promised by various artists I respect. But I was encouraged, in fact practically instructed by those same artists to continue, as according to those voices the series gets better as it goes on.
Valerian and Laureline, for those who aren’t aware, is a science fiction epic, created in 1967, that has gone on to inform and influence huge amounts of sci-fi that followed, especially films, and in particular a certain film series from George Lucas, that seems influenced to the point of, shall we be polite, homage.
Now we’re past the early volumes, we’re far past the works that influenced Lucas, and the imagination and futuristic beauty I was promised is really coming through now. I was told to bear with it, and those people were absolutely right.
This volume begins with Valerian the redcoat storming an Indian fortress. Rather surprisingly, this happens by page nine….
Fear not though, despite it causing a distant Laureline considerable grief, this is merely the first of the many deaths of the hero in this story, and every death is part of a greater plan.
Someone, somewhere, is creating false Earths, re-enacting major moments in human history, from the wars of colonial India to Victorian London to late 19th Century San Francisco Chinatown, each new time period requires another Valerian to explore, to gather data, allowing the two spatio-temporal agents and their very straight-laced handler on this mission to get closer and closer to the mysterious being behind these many false Earths.
Through it all there’s a profound sense of lightheartedness, of the adventure taking precedence, Valerian’s many deaths the source of the thrills, and on several occasions humour as well:
Valerian and Laureline here is very much the perfect grand romp, the rollercoaster sci-fi adventure, Christin’s plot opening up in the second half when it’s no longer deemed sufficient to send the Valerians in one at a time, and we’re treated to the magnificent and ridiculous sight of multiple Valerians heading into battle, fighting on the Prussian side of WWI
Through all of the action in the first part, Mezieres is holding back somewhat, the futurism that marks out Valerian and Laureline’s adventures not applicable here in the past, but even with the sci-fi visuals reigned in, he’s on excellent form. Once everything is revealed, once the past becomes the future once more, he absolutely lets fly, sci-fi visuals explode from the page, each and every one amazing.
As before, Laureline’s presence here could be described as bystander, the little woman there to weep each time her hero perishes. But that’s simply not the case, and as before, it’s plainly obvious that it’s Laureline who runs the show when these two go in as a team, Laureline with the brains to figure the mystery out, Laureline in control by the end. Poor Valerian is merely the blundering male fool, and never more than this volume, where his role is that of simple cannon fodder.
The epic nature of the series has always been there, the nature of the characters developing as the series progresses, but now, as we nudge towards double figures, we’re really playing with ideas and things are so much better as they get stranger, as they leave behind the sorts of things Lucas and his ilk can be influenced by. Now we’re in really weird, really epic territory. And it’s all good.