‘Valerian and Laureline’ flashback: ‘The Illustrated Treasury’ (2017) and ‘The Art of the Film’ (2017) (Book reviews)

As anyone who has searched the web for specific “Valerian” information knows, scholarship of this franchise is sketchy compared to, say, “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.” Two reference books have been released in English — and hopefully more will follow, including a pair of Jean-Claude Mezieres art books that are only in French for now. But here’s a look at the two books – one on the comic universe, one on the film — that are available to English readers now:

“The Illustrated Treasury” (2017)

This is a cute book. Rather than a dry a reference to the “Valerian” comic-book universe, it’s presented in a fun style that captures the spirit of Pierre Christin’s and Mezieres’ work – which makes sense, as they are the creators of this tome. For example, instead of a preface by Valerian and Laureline, there’s a comic page of them preparing to write a preface.

Several more comic spreads follow, often capturing Laureline’s big-hearted love of the diversity of creatures in the universe. Of course, the Shingouz, for one (or three, as it were), love her back. They get a special section, and the Glapum’tians (think Ralph) get robust coverage too. Every major creature from the 23 Christin-and-Mezieres volumes gets an entry.

Christin also chronicles the time-travel-shattered timeline of the “Valerian and Laureline” saga, which is confusing in both a natural and funny way. When he writes about the mysteries of time travel, he’s pontificating about it rather than making definitive statements. Even after the C&M saga is over, it’s still a story of discovery more so than definitive answers.

I have to give a demerit for regular typos and errors that probably came from the French-to-English translation. They are disappointing, but they don’t cut into the readability too much. It’s a shame there’s no section on Valerian’s ship; techno-geeks might find this book a letdown. It also would’ve been nice if the entries pointed readers to the volumes where those creatures, locations, etc. can be found.

Still, for fans with every “Valerian” comic album on their shelf, “The Illustrated Treasury” deserves a spot, too.

“The Art of the Film” (2017)

This companion to Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a visual feast, giving fans tons of examples of lush production art from the beautiful film. These pieces are usually given the space they need – sometimes double-page spreads — for us to enjoy the details.

The presentation of the book itself is a letdown, though. The designer chose gray text on white backgrounds; it’s readable, but not pleasing to look at.

Author Mark Salisbury doesn’t go much beyond the surface of Besson’s moviemaking process. To be fair, this is an art book, not a making-of book, but I think he could’ve gone slightly deeper. I remain curious about why Besson chose to adapt some elements from C&M’s work directly, yet change the names. For example, Point Central becomes Alpha, the Transmuter becomes the Converter, and the beloved Shingouz are renamed the Doghan Daguis. I am pleased to see some comparison photos with the comic art, though.

Here, unlike in “The Illustrated Treasury,” we get a few pages on Valerian’s ship, unnamed in the comics, called the Tempus Fugit in the cartoon and called The Intruder XB982 in the film. No blueprints, though; it’s not that kind of book.

This isn’t a complaint, but an observation: There are hardly any examples of paths not taken by the designers. Everything is in the general ballpark of what we see in the finished film. While the movie is sometimes criticized for his big budget, it seems from this book like the pre-production process was efficient. As one spread shows, fans even designed several background characters, as part of a contest.

Mega-fans of the movie will want to grab this book just because there is no other published reference about it; more casual fans can skip it, especially if they’re not all about the visual arts side. Personally, I would’ve enjoyed a companion piece that goes beyond the art into the overall process of making the film.

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