Valerian and Laureline v9 Chatelet Station Destination Cassiopeia cover

Valerian and Laureline v9: “Châtelet Station, Destination Cassiopeia”

In this book, we get back to matters of time and space. We also get back to earth.

Valerian and Laureline are split up to investigate two things that are somehow related.  Valerian is on earth in the past (contemporary with when this book was published in 1980), while Laureline is traveling in the ship across the galaxy meeting up with different aliens in different worlds.  They’re working the same case from two different angles, staying  in touch as best as they can.

The X-Files episode of Valerian

On earth, Valerian is investigating some mystery creatures that don’t belong there. Basically, the book suggests that Bigfoot and the UFOs of the time were actually anomalies in the space time continuum. That puts them firmly in Valerian and Laureline’s wheelhouse.  It also makes the book feel a bit like an “X-Files” episodes.

There’s more to it than that, though, as Pierre Christin’s script also includes some corporate interests that keep appearing alongside those unexplained phenomenon.

 

Half a Story

Here’s the twist for you: This is a two-parter.

That’s a bit of a disappointment.  I haven’t read the second part yet, but this first part is a little long.  Stuff happens, but it overall has a slower plot and a lot more dialogue than we’ve seen in recent volumes.

I was ready for it to be over at the end of this album, but no such luck. I have to read the next book to finish this story.

Now, the second part might be such a blockbuster that I’ll forgive this book that.  Maybe.  I haven’t read it yet. I’ve had that happen with other series, notably “Largo Winch.”  So I haven’t given up on it.

It’s nice to see Valerian exploring time-displaced on earth, even if he’s relatively passive.

Valerians visits Albert and enjoys a good meal.

Valerian is helped out on earth by his confidant there, Albert.  That’s the Albert we see at the end of volume 14, “The Living Weapon.”  Now I can see that link, and almost want to apologize for the slight spoiler in that one.

Albert drives most of the plot.  Valerian is left to his own defenses on a couple of occasions and comes out the worse for wear in one of them.

But the whole story is about the mystery, which isn’t explained.  There’s no attempt to wrap this up like it’s a complete story that’s part of a two-part overall arc.  It just stop dead in the middle.

Thankfully, I live in a day and age where I can immediately download the next volume and decide for myself what I think.  30 years ago, you’d have had to wait for a year or two for the next book, and be left hanging for that long.

That doesn’t sound like fun now, does it?

 

The Storytelling

Laureline is thinking to Valerian in this scene, which reads like she's writing him a letter.

I did like how the first half of the book is handled by Pierre Christin.  It starts with Laureline writing a letter or just talking to Valerian.  Under those words, Mezieres draws the events they describe.  It’s a bit of show AND tell, but I like the way it works.  It also gives Christin a little leeway to write in a style closer to his beloved science fiction short stories than a comic.

We return to that style elsewhere in the book when Valerian and Laureline have a weird kind of mind meld telepathy link to let each other know what’s going on.

After that, we segue nicely to Valerian’s meet-up with Albert and their eventful walk through the city. In rain-soaked outdoor Paris, Mezieres gets to work drawing shadowy work with inky blacks.  It’s a great look, with a certain 70s cinema/noir-ish vibe to it. It’s so good looking, it’s worth showing off an entire page:

 

Jean Claude Mezieres draws shadow and rain expertly.

I don’t think I’ve ever gone into the coloring of “Valerian and Laureline” at all, but it’s done by Evelin Tranle.  She does a great job with pages like this.  The splashes of yellow highlights behind the dismal browns and greens of the city look great.  She’s not over-doing it here, but uses enough differentiation at different depths to keep the scene separated and clean.

 

Time Travel Unexplained

The one thing I like most about Valerian so far, I think, is that it doesn’t get caught up in the time traveling aspect.  It doesn’t stop to ask deep questions about the Butterfly Effect or ripples or multiple timelines caused by intrusions or any of that.  Christin’s scripts don’t care for that.  This series is fairly linear.  There are occasional invaders of the time stream, causing Valerian and Laureline to go in to stop them.  While they are careful, they’re also not obsessed with the knock-on effects of their work. And Christin isn’t posting some crazy overall impact to the timeline that these adventures are causing.

Heck, Laureline, herself, was picked up out of France from hundreds of years ago.  She left the time stream when she joined Valerian, for all intents and purposes. We’re not still feeling the effects from that in that the creator of penicillin was never born, or anything crazy like that.

(Having said all that, wait till volume 11, where I’ll have to backpedal on some of this…)

 

The Scientific Problem

The one thing that made me stop in my tracks with this book is when Valerian is said to be working out in the Cassiopeia constellation.  Constellations of stars are not necessarily in close proximity.  They only line up the way they do from the earth’s point of view.  They could be multiple light years away from each other.

You just don't go visit a constellation. It doesn't work that way.

 

Recommended?

Maybe.  It depends on how well the next book pays this story off.  Right now, I’m hesitant.

Valerian and Laureline v9 Chatelet Station Destination Cassiopeia cover

 

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #50.)

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