Science fiction has always had a special place in my heart. I attribute this to my parents divorce when I was around 6. My father took us to see Star Wars well over 20 times. I think for him it was a way to find wonder in a dark place and for us it was a treat to make sure we felt special in the chaos of divorce. It was back during that period when movies still played long runs and Star Wars was the longest. It ran for well over a year at Reynolda Cinemas in my home town of Winston Salem North Carolina and it became a social thing people did on the weekends. “What do you want to do tonight? Let’s go see Star Wars again.” I can still remember what it was like really having my mind blown by that space opera for the first time. It changed my life.
I stumbled across the Valerian and Laureline books quite by accident, reading a passing reference to them somewhere, and being curious enough to buy one. These comics are great examples of that kind of old fashioned science fiction that Star Wars was a gateway to for me as a kid. The early stuff; Buck Rodgers, Flash Gordon, It came from Outer Space, and more. Then there is the stuff that came after Star Wars, the copy cats and inspirations that couldn’t have existed without it. Reading a Valerian and Laureline book was like going back to source material for the original Star Wars Trilogy. It is a Franco Belgium Comic that was published starting in 1970 and continued until 2010. (Luc Besson has just finished a feature length film of Valerian and Laureline: City of 1000 Planets.) It is wonderful stuff, perfect for an 11 to 13 year old who longs for mysterious robots and time traveling space pirates.
In this particular book Valerian and his partner Laureline are sent back in time on earth to 1986, the year a nuclear explosion melted to polar ice caps and flooded the planet. They are to capture the technocrat Xombol and stop him from making the future cease to exist. Like a lot of these stories the plot doesn’t matter that much. The real fun is the journey and the characters. As I was reading, the rather wordy and exposition filled comics, I was taken with the fact that the ensemble of characters was multi ethnic and pretty well rounded as far as a graphic novel goes. The violence is fair popcorn and nothing beyond an old fashioned fist fight or robots with lasers. There are a lot of jokes about Laureline and the fact that she is a girl. She seems to often be saving the men and getting herself into situations that require her to comment on the fact that girls are the ones who always get into theses situations. At one point she is shrunken to the several inches she is screaming out to Valerian and he tells her to speak up. She screams that she is speaking up, that since she is so small she is speaking as loud as she can, that these things always happen to the girls. I’ll have to read more to know if the girls/women are given the equal treatment or not. My guess right now, is yes. Here’s a tailer for the movie and a link to the books on Amazon.