Valerian and Laureline v13 On the Frontiers cover header image

It’s Cold War Time! Valerian and Laureline v13: “On the Frontiers”

The Entrepreneurial World of Ex-Spatio-Tempos Agents

With Galaxity fallen and Laureline and Valerian out of work, they’ve entered the bold new world of — freelancing.  Finding clients, getting paid, doing the specific dirty work others can’t do for themselves.

And they don’t have Freshbooks. Pity them.

Russians of the late 80s didn't have Freshbooks

 

“Mr. Albert, Tear Down This Wall”

This leads them into global Cold War territory.  This book, first published in 1988, sends the pair to the Russian/Finnish border, Libya, Tunisia, and more.  This is the weirdest episode of “MacGyver” ever, as Valerian and Laureline are led by their old friend, Mr. Albert, to finding and stopping nuclear warheads from being detonated or moved around from country to country.

Valerian hauls out the old "moroniser" lasso of stupidity.

Wonder Woman only wishes her lasso could pull this off…

In part, they use tools scraped together from parts on their spaceship that’s still sitting hidden next to the castle in Scotland. That gives it a unique angle.  The lasso thing that makes everyone around them stupid, the camera gadget that has some kind of heat detecting or x-ray vision, etc.

No, wait, this is just a James Bond situation, isn’t it?

Laureline uses a camera made from parts of their ship

There’s some unknown person in the mix who seems to have plans to start a nuclear war for reasons unknown — though “Valerian” fans can probably figure that out.

There are parts of this book with the globetrotting duo (along with their pal, Mr. Albert, who is likewise unemployed at the moment) that it feels like I’m reading a completely different series. It’s like I just walked into something Jean Van Hamme should be writing.  It’s a political thriller book, set around world politics and natural geography.

And, even better, thanks to the political landscape of its time, it feels stuck in that time period forever.

Tunisia, drinking and observing

With the sunglasses, nobody will know Laureline is watching their every move.

But this is a time travel series, so that’s OK!

Pierre Christin’s script balances both the elements of a global spy mercenary story with the attitudes of a couple from the future with advanced equipment and some powerful friends.

 

But First, Back In Space…

Jean Claude Mezieres designs a space cruise ship

The first 18 pages of this book are set in an interstellar cruise ship. It’s not just a prologue; it’s a huge part of the overall story and a nice sequence on its own, complete with a twist ending (halfway through), a chase scene, a cat and mouse battle, and more.

And if the design of the space ship looks familiar, there’s good reason for that.  Jean-Claude Mezieres partially recycled the design for “The Fifth Element”.

In any case, the cruise ship looks like a Noah’s Ark of the space tourist industry. It’s filled with so many aliens that no three look alike.  It’s even something the ship’s captain refers to at one point.  Imagine feeding all these species with their different and specific diets?

Christin has fun playing around with those cultural differences and sticking points, giving Mezieres ample opportunity to have fun drawing dozens of new aliens in interesting situations that might otherwise just be perfunctory.

The alien couple of volume 13 look a lot alike

Kistna and Jal. Or is it Jal and Kristna?

But this story is about a man and woman on the ship, Kistna and Jal. First off, there’s a storytelling problem here.  They look a lot alike.  They have these crazy silver/gold metallic outfits, with four eyes, an ornate design, and from a distance no way to tell them apart.  Yes, up close you still have breasts on Kistna to help tip you off.  And with a name ending in “a”, you can guess that she’s the woman of the pair and you’d be right.

But when you have a lot of far off shots of them at first and are trying to keep track of who’s who through dialogue, it’s a little confusing. Not much.  I followed along just fine, though I chuckled once or twice myself about how weird the whole set-up is.

Bed later, first we must gamble!

And here’s how you draw a crowded cruise ship bar scene in a limited amount of space…

They’re the last of their species as far as they can tell, and they plan on — doing something to keep the species going, if you know what I mean. But, first, they must eat!  And maybe swim!  And do some gambling.  Definitely, do gambling.

The whole thing takes a turn once they go to the room, and that kicks off the story heading in the direction of earth in a surprising way.

Yeah, it’s a little weird, but it’s also interesting and you find yourself easily getting sucked into it.  It’s a great story within a story.

(And for those with long memories, they show up again in volume 16, “Hostages of Ultralum.”)

 

Meanwhile, On That Cruise Ship

Aliens dancing on the cruise ship, like a skit from The Muppet Show

Am I the only one reminded of the “Muppet Show” sketch where characters would tell jokes while dancing with each other here?

For those of you under the age of 40:

 

 

Recommended?

Laureline takes in the view

I have this panel scanned in and left over. It’s so pretty that I had to use it somewhere.

Yeah, sure. It’s not the best book ever, but it stands up nicely on its own.  I really like that opening 18 page sequence, even if it means spending a lot of time without the title characters.

The ending is a bit abrupt and anti-climactic, but the rest of the book is enjoyable.  Seeing Laureline and Valerian as Agents of SHIELD or 007s or “Alias” characters is a little weird, but it only lasts this one issue.  We know they get back out into space in the next book.  So as a one-off thing for a change, I like it.

 

Valerian and Laureline v13 On the Frontiers cover image

Click to buy on Amazon (Kindle or paperback )

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #54.)

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