Review: Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1

Valerian cover

Writer: Pierre Christin

Artist: Jean Claude Mézières

Colours: Évelyne Tranlé

Publisher: Cinebook

Release Date: 23 June 2017

Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1.

I cannot tell you how excited I was to read this comic and review it. I knew this was the comic that had been an inspiration to Luc Besson. Which lead him to make probably my favourite film, The Fifth Element. Luc Besson employed the duo behind the comic, Valerian in the making of the Fifth Element.

The Introduction

Thanks to the introduction in Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1. I also found out during the making of The Fifth Element, they begin to discuss the possibility of making Valerian into a film. A film which I enjoyed too, one that got bad press from the reviewers. Some because they didn’t do any research and did not understand it was an original Sci-Fi. It wasn’t copying Star Wars, as I read in one review but the other way round! I also didn’t mind the acting, Cara Delevigne can do no wrong she is a beautiful lady … I used to work for one of her relatives so I might be a bit biased!

Not only an inspiration to its French motherland, nurturing and moulding young talented minds, like Bessons but also to the larger Sci-Fi world. As a result, it is clear Valerian has been used as research for some of the Star Wars characters. As well as some themes borrowed by the likes of Star Trek. Valerian was the original and still the best. I must admit, I do have my rose tinted glasses on. I am not going to sit on the fence with this one and try to be impartial, I love it.

There is a great part of the introduction to the comic, with interviews of the writer, artist and Luc Besson. It gives a wonderful insight into what is now, a classic cult hit comic. How the duo came together to create this magnificent work, way ahead of its time.

Bad Dreams

Bad Dreams Cover

The first book in Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1, is book #0, Bad Dreams. This is the first time the comic has been translated into English and wow, it is worth it. Firstly, it should be noted, it was published after City and retroactively numbered. It is still the original, draft like comic that Christin and Mézières created for the series, way back in 1967. It is where the two characters Valerian and Laureline meet for the first time.

We begin in Galaxity, the capital of Earth in the year 2720 and soon the comic transforms us to 11th century France. Valerian is chasing down a dissident who has abused his power and escaped from his own timeline to cause trouble. Did I mention they can travel through time and space with an instant teleportation device? Pretty awesome and give huge scope to the writer and artist for wonderful stories and settings throughout the comic series.

Valerian is a pretty clumsy kind of hero but a very handsome and charming type of man. We find out in the introduction, he was based loosely on the good looks of French singer Hugues Aufray. There is a running joke through the series of Valerian always being late. This is despite the ability to travel through time in an instant. Though normally he was merely seconds late however, in the future it seems they are sticklers for time keeping.

In this book, Valerian gets into a bit of a muddle in a forest. Enter Laureline, an 11th century peasant who comes to the rescue. A strong, feminine, sexy, hero who I can truly get behind. Remember, this was written in the 60’s and it’s awesome. Some of the recent comics I’ve read, have dealt with the female narrative horrendously. This comic again, is proving to be way, way ahead of its time.

The Start of Something Beautiful

The artistry in this book, by their own admission, is simplistic. As a result, this comic was, in itself, more like a draft. Yes the action is not thorough or detailed. The length is non standard, which is why it got published retroactively. All these things aside, you can see the characters coming together. The humour and one hell of an interesting storyline in the making. One that lasted over 40 years and with the first film and another possibly in the rumblings for the future. They definitely had the start of something beautiful here.

The City of Shifting Waters and Earth in Flames

This is the second book in Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1. It focuses on the year 1986 but was written in 1968. As a result, the near future as it was when written. The planet has suffered from a cataclysmic event, sped up global warming. New York, this comics first episode setting, is flooded and mainly underwater. Enter our heroes who are again trying to find the naughty dissident Xombul, who certainly doesn’t give up!

The second episode finds the characters exploring the volcanic and burning Yellowstone landscape. With some interesting characters they met along the way from Sun Rae inspired by Jazz composer and musician Sun Ra. This apocalyptic comic feels so much more recent. For instance, it has themes echoing our own planetary problems but heightened of course, but not too out there that it couldn’t happen.

Ok, it is a lengthy comic, but I never got bored or fed up of the dialogue and art work. This is the original, full version – 2 x 28 page, non-standard length comic. It required many cuts to fit standard book length.
the artistry is incredible the flooded and jungle ridden New York scenes are among comic books top masterpieces. You can’t tell me this hasn’t inspired future works of art and film.

The Empire of a Thousand Planets

The third book in Valerian: The Complete Collection Volume 1 was written in 1971. It is where the comic books literally take flight. We find Valerian and Laureline on a different planet, mixing futurism and historical culture. Here, we find Royalty, priests of an enlightened order and the everyday merchants and plebeian classes, if you like. All attempting to get on with their daily lives without being hauled over hot coals. The question is where does the real power lay and is it definitely in the right hands?

Of course our dazzling, duo of heroes have to do good and save the day. This same canonical structure, found in all the early books of the series is, let’s face it, the structure for most super hero comics. The artwork is dazzling and colourful. Mézières really has a talent, he can mix it any which way. With stunning landscapes, vibrant markets and luscious royal palaces. As well as equally being able to provide beauty in even a dreary slum scene.

My Ideal Comic

As mentioned at the beginning, I do have my rose tinted glasses on. As such, you will have to discover the delights of this comic book for yourself. I advise the entire series to have a true appreciation for it. This volume is a lovely introduction to the series and with the writer and artist interviews, it just gives that little extra bit of je ne sais quoi. I thoroughly enjoyed this comic collection. I hope you do too, please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Kirsty Louise Millard

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One of those crazy horse ladies! Fantasy lover, I like to think in both senses! Massive gamer and comic lover. Studied Archaeology at Uni, imagining myself as a Lara Croft meets Indiana Jones, more like Tony Robinson! Back to breeding horses for international sport and writing to pay for my habit!

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