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Valerian: The Complete Collection , Volume 1 (Valerian & Laureline) Hardcover – June 1, 2017
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About the Author
Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin created Valerian in 1967 after working in the USA together, one as a cowboy, the other a teacher. While Valerian is Mézières' only comic series, he has worked as an illustrator in many other areas, including designs and sets for The Fifth Element, and he was awarded the Grand Prix du festival d'Angoulême in 1984. Christin also works in collaboration with other artists such as Tardi and Bilal and writes novels and film scripts.
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The series appeared in 20 or so successive ‘album de bande dessinee’, or Franco-Belgian comics, until 2010. Only recently have more than a handful of these comics been translated into English, so for much of the period from the 70s through the 2000s, only a comparatively few Anglophone readers were aware of the Valerian franchise. These Anglophone readers would occasionally ‘borrow’ visual concepts from Mezieres, who had mixed emotions on seeing ‘Star Wars’ ……..and realized that more than a few of its designs were copied from his own artwork…....
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 translations of the four initial episodes of Valerian 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).
‘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 comics published in ‘Pilote’, cannot be enjoyed by adults; many of the strips that appeared in the magazine have since have 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, Valerian 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. 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. 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.
Given the comic's Gallic origins, there inevitably are going to be those moments that will 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) ?!
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 Valerian rewarding, and whether you should spring for ‘The Complete Collection’.
there's just one thing that bugs me. whoever designed this cover...well, the title on the spine is what i would consider upside down. which is to say, if you put this on a coffee table with the cover side up, the title on the spine is upside down. on the shelf, it reads from the bottom up instead of the top down like every other book we own. it's not a huge deal, but it does irk me. (at first i thought it possible that we got a misprinted one, but the "#1" being printed right side up suggests it was meant to be this way for some reason.)
also, amazon sent this in a book mailer. (i know, shocking, right?) but no, hear me out - the reason i don't like these is that the book fits in them exactly, and thus there's no protection inside, so the corners aren't as pristine as i would like. i'd prefer to see this sent wrapped in bubble wrap in a box with air pillows. but again, very minor, and i didn't feel like a replacement would look any better so i didn't request one.
*the book came with a little folded insert that shows all the different individual volumes which i believe are like trade paperbacks - 18!