Valerian t16 Hostages of Ultralum cover detail

Valerian and Laureline v16: “Hostages of Ultralum”

Given the events of the previous volume, we find Valerian and Laureline in a new situation: Money is not an object, so they’re traveling the galaxy, sight-seeing.  Laureline enjoys this, while it chafes at Valerian, who wants the action and the reality of living like a “normal” person.

Not to worry, though, because trouble always follows them.

One night, Laureline is caught up in a kidnapping.  Valerian and an anti-human alien have to team up to save both abductees.  So begins a quest across the universe that leads back to a familiar place — Point Central (a.k.a. Alpha, the site of the upcoming movie.)  There’s some environmental issues at play, some politics, some economical and political things.  Pierre Christin likes to mix lots of things up, and it goes over well here, blending in easily.

The story is a fast moving and high spirited romp, with plenty of humor to go along with the action and adventure.  Christin injects a good amount of comedy in this book, in very funny and occasionally surprising ways.  He’s not afraid to go for the cheap gag, but also mines humor from the conflicts between personalities.

Valerian and Laureline v16 Double Hotel Detectives

Really, how can you not love the Hotel’s Double Detectives? (I can’t help but sing the They Might Be Giants song everytime I read that job description now.)

Valerian prison cell guard

Not to mention this guy, whose job is to sit inside the prison cell and stare at the prisoners to make sure they don’t escape. He’s never been bribed before, also.

Christin makes good use of every alien he adds to this series, making sure they have a moment and a purpose.

 

Visualizing Valerian

The star of this book, originally published in 1995, is Mezieres’ art.  The book opens with a couple of two page spreads that are intricately laid out and beautiful to look at. The first is just a series of landscapes with inset panels as Laureline and Valerian comment on the scenes.

Valerian double page spread by Jean Clause Mezieres

The second one, though, carries the pair into a luxurious hotel and its beautiful dining room.  The second page has panels constructed to mimic the architecture of the hotel, complete with the glass ceiling at the top.

More and more in these volume, we see Mezieres the Illustrator. That’s the guy who can design a single image.  He does it with a few images in this book, where a single panel can be enjoyed and used as an illustration, and not jut another step in a sequence of images that tell a story.

He can infuse all the techniques of composition to create amazing imagery that stands on its own  I’m almost annoyed that he drew panels on that page above. I wish he had just drawn a two page spread of a hotel.  His use of silhouettes and stark lighting patterns on the left page would have been amazing to see uninterrupted across two pages.

The Shingouz return to Valerian

Mezieres also draws an incredible number of alien races in this book, each with its own unique look. Some old friends pop back up again, too, including the much beloved and oft-recurring Shingouz.

Laureline glams up for a little bit in this issue, without resorting to complete fan service.  And when needed, she can get down and dirty and fight off all comers.

Each of these albums is a workout for Mezieres’ skills, but we’re lucky that he has them.  It makes each book a treat.

 

Valerian: The Cartoon?!?

Valerian featuring an abducted blue kid alien

The one weird feeling I had in reading this book was like I had just walked into a Saturday morning cartoon.  Was the cute alien kid that Valerian and Laureline were protecting going to turn out to be a Scrappy Doo?  Or a junior Great Gazoo from Flintstones?

The Valerian Schnierf

And why is the powerful weapon used in the book another small blue alien who can only be activated when his ears aren’t tied up?  I’m not suggesting he was made for the toy line, but he runs the risk of being another cute cuddly alien created for the same book.  It’s just weird.

Spoiler: In the end, Laureline adopts the cute alien kid, meaning she and Valerian will have a cute kid sidekick in future adventures. That worries me just a tad.  Again, I watched too much television in the 80s.  Once you start adding the cute kid to reinvigorate the cast, you’re usually in trouble.  (Hmmm, a “Valerian Kids” series would be — no, no, no, stop it.)

I’m crossing my fingers that this won’t happen here.

 

Recommended?

Yes.  The story is a fun romp, but Mezieres’ art is something to be seen.  After nearly 30 years of drawing the series, he still had it when he did this book in the mid-1990s.  The style might be a bit cartoonier than in earlier days, but it’s not at all simplistic or lazy looking. It’s just a different shade of art level.

Special thanks to Comixology, too, for their quick response on the digital edition of this book.  When I pointed out that the double page spreads weren’t showing up properly on the two-page web view, they jumped in and fixed it in the same day.  That’s great customer service for a great book that a lot of people may be reading later this month…

Buy the Kindle version here to support PipelineComics.com

Valerian t16 Hostages of Ultralum cover

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #44.)

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