Valerian v17 "Orphan of the Stars" cover detail

On the Run: Valerian and Laureline v17: “Orphan of the Stars”

Run, Valerian, Run

This volume picks up right after the events of volume 16.  It’s a direct continuation.

Valerian and Laureline have taken the little blue boy, Caliphette, with them for his own safety.  The Quatuor Mortis are chasing close behind, looking to score the ridiculously high bounty the father has placed on the boy.  Now our heroes must find a safe place for the kid that they can dump him off at.  As it turns out, they don’t want to turn into an 80s Saturday morning cartoon with the cute alien mascot.

 

Science Fiction Action/Adventure Romp

I liked this volume a lot, from start to finish, for one simple reason: It’s an action/chase movie on paper.  This book isn’t all about sociology and politics and the battle of the sexes or anything like that. It’s about Laureline and Valerian running away from the Qautuor Mortis and getting this annoying alien brat boy to safety somewhere.

Valerian v17 Page One by Jean-Claude Mezieres

First story page. And so it begins…

There are a couple of stops along the way, and you can read commentary into the sexism of Hollywood or the stifling system of education into those side steps, if you’d like.  Pierre Christin plays them mostly for laughs, but you can see him also making a statement about these topics. They’re just not the point of this book.

This one is just a giant chase scene: by ship, by yacht, by motorcycle, on foot.  Sit back and enjoy the bumpy ride.

Christin’s script gives the Quatuor Mortis a classical music theme they didn’t have in the previous volume.  Now, they’re obsess over musical tempos and classical themes.  They think of their attacks on our titular heroes in terms of being staccato or allegro or moderato, etc.  They’re still four aliens dressed in tuxes with big guns, but they sound even fancier with this chatter.

The plot doesn’t skimp over the imaginative details.  Christin could have made this book a super fact-paced action/adventure piece. Instead, he stops two or three times over the course of this book to give the characters a chance to breathe and to explore the new world they find themselves in.

We get descriptions of the college their new friend, the poor pizza delivery boy they roped into their adventure, attends. We get details on how the movie industry works on this planet.  We see how the other half of the planet lives and how the economy is structured. It only lasts for a couple of pages, and then the action picks right back up.

It’s a great bit of pacing with that plotting.

 

Mezieres’ Art in Detail

Valerian v17 - Ships chasing across the city and into space

This gives Jean-Claude Mezieres a chance to draw extended action scenes, but also to vary up the settings at a rapid rate.  He gets to draw floating cities and flying cities and plenty of aliens and ships.

Interestingly, if you stop to inspect Mezieres’ art up close, you might be disappointed by what you see.  When reading through the pages, you’ll see detailed buildings and intricate chandeliers and detailed ships.  But if you stop to inspect these panels up close, you’ll often see that they’re constructed of the loosest possible lines. They don’t connect. They overlap.  They’re not perfectly straight.  They’re in perspective enough to count.

Let’s blow up the far left part of the above panel:

Close-up on Mezieres art shows the detail level

I don’t see a single line drawn with a ruler in there.

Mezieres isn’t attempting to be an architect here; he’s trying to be a story teller. He’s putting his ideas down on paper.  He’s not also trying to lay out the schematics for the architects to build the sets, you know?  You, as the reader, see what he’s getting at without him having to be so careful with his lines that it takes all the life out of them.

Plus, once the original art shrinks down a tad to fit the page size, things tighten up, anyway.

At the same rate, he can be amazingly detailed when laying down lighting schemes.  Some of his most intricate work in this volume is in the opening scenes, where Valerian and Laureline are skulking through a rundown-looking machinery-filled factory kind of place, really.  (See the first page at the top of this article for examples.)

Honestly, if there’s any weak spot to Mezieres’ art, it’s in his inconsistency with the characters.  Even with Laureline and Valerian, their features can stretch and squash from panel to panel.  Once in a while, you just get a bad panel.

For example:

Jean-Clause Mezieres draws a very bad Laureline face

What is going on with poor Laureline’s nose/forehead here? Or is her eye just too far back? Ouch.

 

The Characters Bring It All Together

In the end, the thing that ties this all together is the characters.  They’re fairly well defined by now, and the interplay between Valerian and Laureline is terrific here.  He’s a great action thinker, while she’s a better plotter when it comes to dealing with other people and using their identities against them.

Then, there’s the annoying little boy whose life they’re trying to save.  Given his upbringing, it’s no surprise that he’s a loud-mouthed brat who is basically self-destructive. But his abrasive nature adds lots of humor and little unexpected twists to the story.

Heck, even the pizza delivery boy isn’t boring. He’s an interesting, if somewhat pitiful character.  He’s fun to have around, though he’s obviously there to serve as the local guide for exposition delivery.

 

Pierre Christin’s Cameo

Mézières caricatured Pierre Christin for this book. Christin portrays — who else? — the screenplay writer who’s in love with Laureline.

Pierre Christin's caricature

 

The Time Travel Device

Jean-Claude Mezieres uses screen tones for time/space moments.

In every volume of this series, there’s always an excuse for Mezieres to draw a time/space warp.  No matter the situation, at some point we’ll see Mezieres break out the old screen tones and use some crazy pattern with his art to simulate such a thing.

In this volume, they have a device about the size of a wristwatch which allows them to travel short distances back in time.  Needless to say, this could become a plot crutch very easily.  We’ll see if it gets used again in future volumes.

 

Recommended?

I may have to eliminate this section for future “Valerian and Laureline” volumes.  The answer is always “yes,” aside from maybe the first couple of volumes.  Even then, it’s kind of a “yes” with proper qualifications.

Yes, this is a great book.  While it does extend the storyline from the previous volume, it also stands up well on its own.  The characters say just enough to catch a new reader up along the way.

Valerian v17 "Orphan of the Stars" cover

Click to order through Amazon.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #47.)

 

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