valerian v18 cover detail In Uncertain Times

The Devil, You Say: Valerian and Laureline v18: “In Uncertain Times”

It’s interesting to me to see how the series changed as it went along in more ways than one.  More humor came into the comic as it went along.  Mezieres’ art got cartoonier.

Albert returns to Valerian in "In Uncertain Times"

Since they go to earth, of course Albert is in this book!

Perhaps the biggest change of all, though, is that the stories became more intertwined.  Favorite characters showed up more often.  The after effects of actions in previous volumes came back into play. While the books remained mostly self-contained, the last few volumes have certainly felt more serialized.

Valerian and Laureline: In Uncertain Times even includes the Transmuter

Even the Transmuter returns…

And I’m liking it. That’s what surprises me.  At the beginning, I liked the book for how self-contained each chapter was.  I liked Christin’s scripts feeling like individual science fiction short stories that you could almost read in any order.  When larger plots came around with volumes 9 – 12, I started to rebel against it, as much as I loved volume 11.

By volume 18, I feel so invested in the characters and their history that I’m happy to see more of it being explored.

Maybe I’m an easy mark. Maybe this is a natural progression for a series like this. (Christin built the world already. Now he can start playing with the pieces that are already on the board?)

It’s growing on me so much that I’m beginning to think I might go back to volumes 9 and 10 (“Châtelet Station, Destination Cassiopeia” and “Brooklyn Line, Terminus Cosmos“) to give them a second chance.

 

Galaxity

3D Galaxity from Valerian and Laureline v18 In Uncertain Times

This digital image of Galaxity was done for this book by Guillaume Inverness. It’s a nice extension of how Mezieres drew Galaxity to look in volume 0, “Bad Dreams.”

I don’t know that I ever talked about the disappearance of Galaxity in any great detail in any of these reviews.  That’s the problem with going spoiler free on individual books.  At some point, though, reviews of later volumes should be allowed to spoil preview books.  That’s what I’m starting with here.

Let’s quickly consult with Wikipedia for the definition of Galaxity and a little more on the overall set-up of the series:

The original setting for the series was the 28th century. Humanity has discovered the means of travelling instantaneously through time and space. The capital of Earth, Galaxity, is the centre of the vast Terran Galactic Empire. Earth itself has become a virtual utopia with most of the population living a life of leisure in a virtual reality dream-state ruled by the benign Technocrats of the First Circle. The Spatio-Temporal Service protects the planets of the Terran Empire and guards against temporal paradoxes caused by rogue time-travellers. 

So Galaxity is the earth’s capital, but when we say it disappeared, we mean that version of the future earth disappeared.  The whole planet disappeared, including that city.  The time travel stuff messed things up.  The 1986 Earth doomed to flood in a cataclysmic nuclear event is saved.

Also, the rest of the story sounds like either “Wall-E” or “The Matrix.” A population living a life of leisure in VR?  Yup, that’s “The Matrix,” all right. (Valerian, just as a reminder, started 30 years earlier.)

Valerian and Laureline, the cosmos' cutest couple

“Why don’t you slip those VR goggles off and get into something more comfortable, Valerian?”

 

Valerian Misses Galaxity

In fact, this book begins with Valerian on his ship hooked up to the computer, wearing a set of VR goggles, and looking up information on Wikipedia for Galaxity.  OK, it’s not really Wikipedia, but this book was published in 2001.  Wikipedia didn’t begin until that same year.  So let’s give Pierre Christin some small measure of credit here for being on the cutting edge of the future with that, too.

The point of the whole scene is to show that Valerian is still having troubles with losing Galaxity, his home planet.  It’s where he grew up. It’s the only home he knows.  Laureline’s home planet of earth continues, but she’s already a fish out of water, owing to her traveling 1700 years in the future already.  Her planet, though surviving, is effectively dead to her.  The only world Valerian knew was taken from him during some weird negotiations with The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.  (See “The Wrath of Hypsis.”)

He lost his world when hers was saved. He hasn’t completely recovered from that, and it’s only getting worse.

The Devil Comes to Earth

I’ve tried summarizing the events of this book in a non-spoiler way multiple times.  Trying to explain this one out loud is baffling to me.

Keeping a straight face, here I go: The Devil comes to earth to buy a multi-national conglomerate that God doesn’t want him to own, because He fears the company will interfere with the development of humankind.

Something like that? I think?

Valerian and Laureline diversity with the devil

Valerian diversity: white guy, brown woman, two-headee purple alien, the devil, etc.

It’s how they get there that’s so much fun.  The Devil, named “Sat” in this book, is found in a grungy backwater area in Point Central.  He has flies constantly swarming around his head.  The Shingouz saw him move and are trying to sell that info to Valerian and Laureline. They want to use the info to get more information about how they can bring Galaxity back, maybe.

The interesting part of this book is counting just how many pre-existing characters Christin wrote into this book.  There’s a character from “Bad Dreams” in here, as well as a couple from volume 1, “The City of Shifting Waters“, and the usual gang of reoccurring characters, like the Shingouz, the Transmuter, Mr. Albert, and the two-headed hotel detectives, amongst others.

There’s a particularly hilarious appearance from people from “Heroes of the Equinox” that I never saw coming.

Some of the cameos are very subtle.  And some are very important, most especially the characters who re-appear from the first volume and have important story points.  That’s a 20+ year callback for those plot points.

 

Franco-Belgian Comics vs American Comics:Three Act Structure

If there’s one thing this book helped cement in my mind, it’s that French comics have a tendency to luxuriate over the second act.  That’s actually where all the best stuff is in the book.  It’s where characters explore, interact, and show their character, in general.

The third act, which is the place where Michael Bay has lots of stuff exploding in increasing order of scale until the final bombast saves the day, usually gets the shortest shrift.  These books can often just end. Sometimes, it’s because the ending is logical instead of dramatic. People don’t suddenly make stupid decisions so that they can continue the drama, nor do they put themselves in ridiculous peril to help facilitate the final whizzing uber-dramatic ending.

It holds true here, where the final act puts all the characters together in one room to negotiate. And, off-panel, they settle their differences in an agreeable manner.  Then, we get a little taste of the aftermath of those decisions and the book just ends.

There’s no fake last minute drama of “Oh, he’s the bad guy so he’s going to pull out a gun and shoot someone at the last minute when they’re least expecting it.”  There’s no “He’s going to go back on his word to save his wife’s life, but the person he gave his word to is going to go back on his and karma wins.”  Or, “Hey, didn’t someone plant a bomb in that room fifty pages ago? Shouldn’t it blowing up right about — KABOOM!”

It’s both refreshing and anti-climactic.  At least I’m self-aware enough know why it feels anti-climactic and to guard against that.

 

Recommended?

Yes.  If you’ve been reading the whole series up to this point, carry on!  Just don’t start here.  It will lose a new reader completely.

 

valerian v18 cover In Uncertain Times

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #57.)

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