Looking for a “Valerian” fix after last year’s movie, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” I’m delving into the comics that started it all, by Frenchmen Pierre Christin (writer) and Jean-Claude Mezieres (pencils and inks). Here’s a look at the final volume, an epilogue of sorts that isn’t included in the collected volumes from Cinebook.
2010’s “The Time Opener” is the final chapter of the “Valerian and Laureline” narrative, but Christin and Mezieres returned three years later with a thank-you volume for fans that’s also a love letter to their own creation.
Despite the title, Valerian and Laureline aren’t looking back on their career of future-based adventures, since they lost their memories at the end of “The Time Opener.” So we can imagine the present day of this volume is sometime during the latter part of the saga. V&L, and other characters, look back at adventures amid or related to the first nine volumes.
Sort of like George Lucas’ “Star Wars” Special Editions, C&M add more detail to their stories when looking back on them decades later, except the bonus scenes are short stories rather than inserted scenes. Some segments flesh out the plots, some give character insight, some detail the flora and fauna.
Although a reader feels close to V&L when reading the saga, Christin doesn’t use a first-person perspective; the first two stories in “Memories” change that. Laureline’s memory is from “Bad Dreams” (Volume 0) when she wonders if she would have married a knight had she stayed in feudal France, with the ironic ending that she does end up with a knight of sorts while still getting to be her own person.
Valerian feels more put-upon in his humorous story, set during “The City of Shifting Waters” (1). He’s having a pleasant daydream of a love interest from that time when his reverie is broken by Laureline, who asks him to fight a monster – he’s irked like a husband being asked to take out the trash during a football game.
The tale set during “The Empire of a Thousand Planets” (2) is from the POV of the Shingouz who has a crush on Laureline. Here, Christin peppers in some jabs at “Star Wars” as the Shingouz tries to remember the name of the Enlightened – Dark Dover? Barth Vapor? One good thing about “V&L” ceasing its run is that we dodge Christin trying out more of this meta humor, which pulls me out of the storytelling. Granted, it does give us insight into his lingering raw feelings about “Star Wars’ ” creators borrowing from “V&L” without tipping their hats.
The segment from “The Land Without Stars” (3) is my favorite, even though it’s more of a lost entry from “The Illustrated Treasury.” C&M give us a tour of the Skromm-House’s interior. It the original volume, the fact that it’s a nomadic house is the extent of its coolness; here, we see there are organic equivalents for all domestic needs, including a “renal filtration system” that serves as a shower. You can probably guess which one of the duo Mezieres chooses to illustrate in the shower (no complaints, though).
The yarns from “Welcome to Alflolol” (4) and “Birds of the Master” (5) are tighter retellings of those adventures from the locals’ perspectives. Then we get another piece that could’ve fit in the “Treasury,” as V&L go on a guided tour of Central Point during “Ambassador of the Shadows” (6). Laureline ends up as the trophy – and the “ball” — in a Kamunik Foochblitz match, and even though I think this happened to her in the main story, it remains amusing.
In the “On False Earths” (7) short, Laureline again rescues Valerian from a cloning pod while the authorities investigate the cloner, Jadna. Interestingly, Jadna begins producing a variety of Laureline clones – outfitted for different eras of Earth history, and some with different skin tones. Laureline is also duplicated in the “Time Jam” episode “Sign of the Times” (2007) and the comic “Shingouzlooz, Inc.” (2017); appropriately, this one-of-a-kind woman is never happy about it.
A “Heroes of the Equinox” (8) episode appropriately closes out “Memories.” This one isn’t set during the original story, but rather is a reunion of the competitors. This time, Valerian wins with the help of two of his many children with Filene. Valerian’s fling with Filene – despite the fact that he’s ordered to do it – bothers Laureline in the original story, and the existence of his numerous kids irks her in the “Great Void” trilogy.
But here we get a happy final panel of Valerian and Laureline literally walking into the sunset as two kids splash at the ocean’s edge – an ending they didn’t get in Volume 21. It’s a nice way to provide different “endings” to serve different fans’ tastes.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
If you’ve read the 23 (numbered 0 through 22) Christin & Mezieres volumes and “The Illustrated Treasury,” that’s the end of their English-translated works. The guest-authored “Shingouzlooz, Inc.” gives you one more comic in English.
There are some untranslated “V&L” works floating out there, so English-reading fans can hope for additional material someday:
- Seven short stories were published in Pilote in 1967-68 and collected in “Across the Pathways of Space” in 1997. These apparently focus much more on Valerian than Laureline.
- “The Jakolass Armor” (2011), by Manu Larcenet, is the first of the two guest-penned comics, followed by “Shingouzlooz, Inc.” My impression is that Larcenet’s sense of humor is hard to translate from the French.
- Christin wrote one “V&L” prose novel, “Paradizac, the Hidden City” (2009). It was originally titled “Lininil Has Disappeared.”
- Two coffee-table books of Mezieres’ art, “Mezieres Extras,” chronicle his work outside of the comic itself. Volume 1 features a lot of ancillary “V&L” work, whereas the second volume focuses on his production art for “The Fifth Element.” Since artwork needs no translation, I’m almost tempted to track these down, even if they are in French.