“Bad Dreams” is a different kind of beast entirely from the rest of the series.
This is a slightly goofier 1960s-era serialized story that never slows down. It’s a relatively short 28 pages long, but doesn’t need to be anything more. Well, OK, there’s a couple of plot points and character things they could have used a couple extra pages to show, but the overall effect is good. You get a complete story with great art that will fill in a couple gaps for previous “Valerian and Laureline” readers.
Honestly, I liked this story better than the first volume. It has its wordy pages, yes, but they speed by and never take up the entire page. It’s usually, at best, half a page of explanation before Valerian jumps up and gets moving to the next thing.
The whole thing feels familiar, even as different as it is at times.
The Mythology of Galaxity
With a couple quick pages at the top, Pierre Christin lays out the series in a series of captions. This is Galaxity. These are the time cops. Here’s how they work. Here’s Valerian and his pals talking about their latest (hilarious) journeys. Then the boss shows up and acts like the boss of the main character in most every 1960s sit-com you can think of.
There are parts of that which didn’t survive to the regular series. There’s a complete lack of camaraderie with other Time Agents after this book that I liked here so much. They’re mostly used for one panel gags — who went to the vegan world etc. — but as a team book, this could have worked. (Also, for a book drawing in 1967, it’s worth noting that Valerian’s fellow time cops included an Asian man and a black woman.)
In fact, there’s very little mythology associated with the Spatio-Temporal force as a whole. Yes, Galaxity is disappeared, but you don’t see other agents besides Valerian and Laureline in the series. There’s never a split at the top on tough decisions. There’s no structure to the organization or strict definition of it and the rules they play by. We learn whatever we need to for that story and ignore the rest.
It’s refreshing, in this day and age, to meet a series like this that isn’t hung up on its own mythology and internal workings. Thought, in retrospect, I’d love to know more about the organization and its history.
The Origin of Laureline
Not that it ever needed one, but this is a good “origin story” book. I managed to read 18 volumes of the series before reading this one, and pretty much had things figured out from the get-go: Valerian is a time cop. So is Laureline.
Early on, I wasn’t 100% sure what their relationship was. It took a couple volumes before they made it obvious, though I guess their romantic picnic at the beginning of the first volume should have been all the proof I needed. Maybe I figured it was a cultural difference thing?
The bulk of the book is an adventure on earth in the tenth century, with Valerian tracking down a rogue time cop. Along the way, he meets a girl named Laureline, who talks her way back to her future/his present day with him as a means of saving the time line. The logic is a little — absent — in that, but it works just fine. It gets the job done, and the series is never reliant on time travel craziness anyway.
So we forgive it, fall quickly in love with Laureline, and keep going.
Story Structure and Art from a Different Story Type
This feels to me more like a “Smurfs” story, in its structure and storytelling. That makes sense, since the Smurfs were having stories serialized at the same time. That was just the way they made comics at the time. The anthologies ruled over all else, and keeping them friendly for all ages meant a certain clear storytelling style. It also means regular cliffhangers to keep you waiting for the next installment.
This is Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres channeling their inner Franquin or Morris to tell a sci-fi story instead of a western. In fact, some of the silhouettes of Valerian in this book look exactly like Lucky Luke. He has that same lanky body and slightly oversized head, hands, and feet.
Mezieres is still different from his contemporaries I’ve named so far at the time. He uses shadows a bit more, adding dramatic lighting and paying attention to the ambient lighting to create specific textures and extra dimensionality to his art. His angles are more varied, including dramatic worm’s eye and bird’s eye views.
Here’s a good example of his more extreme lighting conditions:
Yes. The only trick is, you can’t buy the “Valerian and Laureline” #0 album. Because of its relatively short size, it doesn’t get a book of its own.
Cinebook, thankfully, reprinted it this summer in the first volume of their “Valerian and Laureline: The Complete Collection” series. You also get the first two books in series there, so it’s a good value. In fact, it’s under $20 on Amazon today (affiliate link if you click the image below) and it’s a hardcover.
They did find material to fill out an album with and published this in France as its own book. Here’s what that one looked like:
(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #55.)