Valerian and Laureline v6 Ambassador of the Shadows

Valerian and Laureline v6: “Ambassador of The Shadows”

The Set-Up

Valerian and Laureline v6 Ambassador of the Shadows cover

Out in space, there’s a place called Point Central. It is a space station, of sorts, made up of a variety of ships and habitats supplied by the aliens who land there and build onto it.  It’s an amalgamation of cultures who’ve come to one place, yet leave each other alone except for governance meetings where aliens take turns being in charge, and meetings are held by video screens so nobody has to leave their habitats.  (Not all parts of the station are breathable by all species, after all.)

It’s a classic science fiction set-up, with plenty of room for imaginative aliens, environments, and ships.  It’s tailor-made to play to Jean Claude Mezieres’ strengths as a designer.

The story kicks off with the beginning of humanity turn to be the center of command for Point Central.  The small sniveling evil-looking ambassador, though, has bigger plans, that he reveals to his aides, Valerian and Laureline, at the last minute. Basically, humanity is going to take control of Point Central for good, to bring it organization, fair trade, and security.  Humanity will rule, and it’ll bring a fleet of its finest warships with it to enforce this.

It’s a classic administrators point of view on a system.  Where a system can be maximized and processes put into place and red tape thrown in along with new layers of bureaucracy, it should never be stopped.

Or, it’s just a parable for the ills of human exceptionalism…  Take your pick.

Valerian v6 Earth is Evil Ambassador

So, yes, Valerian and Laureline are tasked with working for the obvious bad guy in the situation. Laureline is not taking that too well.

And when the Ambassador and Valerian are kidnapped upon landing, it’s up to Laureline to save them by criss-crossing Point Central in all its craziness.

 

Focus on Laureline

Valerian is out of the picture for most of this book.  This is Laureline’s story.  Left to her own devices and a pet alien of some sort that can synthesize money, more or less, she sets out to save Valerian (and the ambassador, if she has to).  It’s not an easy task. It’s a series of visits to different parts of Point Central to get there.  The book winds up feeling a lot like a travelogue that way.  She gets to a new place, asks some questions, then finds out she needs to go to that other place over there next.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Valerian v6: Laureline gets to work

For much of the book, there’s very limited drama or timeliness.

Instead, the travelogue nature of the story is a perfect set-up for Meziere’s art.  He does a great job with it, illustrating a variety of environments and lots of high tech spaceship stuff along the way.  He has a way of establishing scenes that give you an immediate feel for their vastness and depth. He’s great at making three dimensions with only two to work with. He’s a master of composition, particularly with frames-within-frames, repetition, and overlap.

He’s also able to tell the story without the layout issues I discussed for volume 5, where the reading order across panels was often obscured, even with arrows occasionally pointing the way out.  There are far fewer of them in this volume,  When they are used, the reading order is much more obvious.

But the travelogue part of the story does give a good chunk of the book a repetitive feeling.  The shifts from point to point don’t increase the drama or raise the stakes all that much.  Laureline does whatever she has to, no matter how gross the reader might think it will be, to get to the next stage. Much of the meat of the story is the challenge of Laureline to herself to get through the next part, rather than fighting against external forces.

Eventually, she winds up where she needs to be, leading to her reconnection with Valerian.

Laureline is a master negotiator

It’s great to see her take up the role of lead character in a story, though.  Quibbles about the plot structure aside, Laureline’s attitude and fierceness about saving Valerian (and the loathsome ambassador) give this book, in particular, a lift. Laureline is just a bit sassy when someone ticks her off, driving her to get a job done.

 

Recommended?

Yes, especially if you’ve been waiting to see Laureline do more.  This is her book, and it’s lots of fun.

The opening few pages that introduce the Point Central, in particular, is a great blend of words (with big ideas) and images.  Laureline’s trip through Point Central is the kind of imaginative romp you look for from “Valerian and Laureline.”

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #16 of 100 for 2017.)

 

Previously in “Valerian and Laureline” Reviews..

Valerian and Laureline v1 The City of Shifting Waters cover header

Volume 1: “The City of Shifting Waters”

Valerian v2 The Empire of a Thousand Planets cover

Volume 2: “The Empire of a Thousand Planets”

Valerian and Laureline: The Land Without Stars cover

Volume 3: “The Land Without Stars”

Valerian and Laureline volume 4 Welcome to Alflolol

Volume 4: “Welcome to Alflolol”

Valerian and Laureline v5 Birds of the Master cover

Volume 5: “Birds of the Master”

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