Reviews: Valerian and Laureline – by George, I think I’ve got it!
By Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières
Technorog is a planet essential to the economy of the Terran empire. For 200 years, it has been a centre of industry, research and agriculture. Suddenly, the indigenous population—believed long extinct—comes back to the planet they know as Alflolol. Earth’s laws are strict: They must be allowed back on their ancestral grounds. But when Valerian and Laureline are assigned to facilitate their “reinsertion,” they see the difference between the letter of the law and its spirit…
Okay, here we go with Valerian And Laureline for a fourth time, and in case you’re not keeping score….
Volume 1 – didn’t enjoy it, didn’t get it. Volume 2 – better, and found lots of enjoyment in Mézières’ art. Volume 3 – still impressed by the art, but not too keen on some of Christin’s attitudes here.
Are you all ready to say “I told you so” in the comments?
Yeah, yeah, you all said it improved as it went on. You were all right.
Just for a change, lets start with the art, as there are moments in this volume that are pure wow, with Mézières’ toning down the cartoony style from earlier, and blowing me away with stylised layouts and a simply beautiful use of backgrounds and colour. Glorious, beautiful vistas, tight cartoon-ish yet not too much so at this point figurework.. spectacular stuff, and his colour work is just sublime, creating moods so well through big shifts in palette, often from panel to panel.
But I’d accepted the art as good as far back as Volume 2, so the news that it’s improving is no great leap I suppose. However, I was always critical of Christin’s writing; too pedestrian, old-fashioned, stuck in its time, exposition heavy to the point it all felt bogged down in story with actually going anywhere.
And now? Well, I’m not really sure why, more a cumulative thing than anything I can pinpoint, but I sort of simply settled back into this, the things that rankled previously were toned down, or I simply let them wash over me. And instead I found myself concentrating on all of the things Christin does right here, the allegorical stuff of the returning indigenous tribe begrudgingly given second class citizen status by the all-knowing Earthans, the political machinations,
Sure, there are times when he lays the allegory on a little thick, there are still times it all seems rather old-fashioned (which is fair enough in a way – it is nearly as old as me) ….. but then something clicks, and it all starts to work a certain magic on me, and suddenly I’m reading the old-fashioned hokum, and it no longer grates, it just is, I just accept it as a moment of storytelling.
So when Laureline starts simpering and becoming the object to be rescued yet again, I wrote it off. It was merely part of the whole saga.
Of course, one very important thing to acknowledge is how Christin is developing his leads…. Valerian may be the gung-ho perfect space cadet, but he also proves to be a bit of an idiot, failing to grasp the subtleties of his position, of his role.
That’s left to Laureline, who spends most of her time this volume on the side of good, welcoming the Alflolols, railing against the political dunderheads too petty and empire-building to see the right way to behave…
Laureline proves again and again that she’s a genuine, likeable humanist character. She just happens to get caught in scrapes occasionally.
Although Christin even has the perfect answer to that as well, as he puts just that little bit of self-awareness in his heroine’s voice this time:
Oh, it may be a little old fashioned in its outlook, but Christin is taking some of that traditional misogyny he’s been writing in, and twisting it on its head.
So yes, four volumes in and I’m slowly turning into a convert. You can all stop saying “I told you so” now.