Thursday, July 20, 2017

Valerian The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Valerian: The Complete Collection
Volume 1
Cinebook, 2016

Writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres launched Valerian in issue 420 (November 1967) of the Franco-Belgian magazine Pilote. The series continued to appear in various print outlets, primarily Franco-Belgian comic books (album de bande dessinee) in the ensuing decades, ceasing publication only in 2010.

Timed to accompany the release of the feature film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on July 21 here in the USA, 'Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1' compiles English language versions of the four initial episodes of Valerian (also referred to as Valerian and Laureline) first serialized in Pilote: Bad Dreams (1967), The City of Shifting Waters and Earth in Flames (both 1970), and The Empire of a Thousand Planets (1971).

Since 2010, Cinebook has been issuing English translations of all the individual Valerian albums de bande dessinees, but these Complete editions offer readers the opportunity to gather the material in a more convenient and affordable manner.

Some English translations of Valerian comics are also available in a digital format.

Pilote was intended for what in the USA is called a 'tweener' or 'Young Adult' audience, so these initial episodes of Valerian should be read with an awareness of that audience in mind. This does not mean that Valerian, like many of the other comics published in Pilote cannot be enjoyed by adults; many of the strips that appeared in the magazine have since become comic book classics, like Asterix, Lone Sloane, and Blueberry.

The premise of Valerian is straightforward space opera: in the year 2720, Valerian is an operative for the Terran Galactic Empire. Teleportation allows people to instantaneously travel immense distances in time and space. On a mission to Earth's past, Valeiran befriends a peasant girl named Laureline, who soon becomes an operative herself. Together, they are sent all over the galaxy on troubleshooting missions.

This volume of The Complete Collection is a nicely produced book, with crisp color reproductions done on high-grade paper. (The cover price is $29.99, but of course you can find it for less, at your usual online retailers).

There is an extensive Introduction section designed to acquaint an American readership with the Valerian canon, as well as pointing out how influential the series has been on sf and pop culture worldwide.....

As for the comics themselves, I found them entertaining despite being aimed at a Young Adult readership. Although Christin's scripts apparently were designed to provide a satiric treatment of the political stances of French president Charles de Gaulle (?!), for all practical purposes, Christin's narratives move along at a satisfying pace. 

Given the comic's Gallic origins, there are going to be those moments that draw a 'huh ?' exclamation from any American reader.......for example, the Earth in Flames episode sees a reincarnation of Jerry Lewis from The Nutty Professor (1963) ?!

In these initial issues, artist Mezieres was plainly finding his way; his depictions of the human characters have a decidedly 'cartoony' look. But his rendering of landscapes and technological artifacts is good, and makes clear that as the series progressed, Mezieres would refine his techniques and produce some memorable imagery.

The verdict ? If you're a fan of those early days of Heavy Metal and Eurocomics like Barbarella, then you may want to invest in a copy of  'Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1'. 

If you're someone who is less familiar with the Eurocomics scene, someone more at ease with US and UK sci-fi comics like Star Wars, Star Trek, or 2000 AD, or more modern series like Black Science or Saga, then Valerian may or may not be your cup of tea..........looking at a digital comic or two may be a good way to gauge whether you'll find The Complete Collection a rewarding investment.

No comments: