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Valerian Vol. 15: The Circles of Power (Valerian and Laureline) Paperback – 2 Feb 2017
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About the Author
Jean-Claude Mezieres and Pierre Christin created Valerian in 1967 after working in the USA together, one as a cowboy, the other a teacher. While Valerian is Mezieres' only comic series, he has worked as an illustrator in many other areas, including designs and sets for The Fifth Element, and he was awarded the Grand Prix du festival d'Angouleme in 1984. Christin also works in collaboration with other artists such as Tardi and Bilal and writes novels and film scripts.
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While each book can be approached on its own, together the 22 installments form a continuous narrative arc, while some characters re-emerge throughout the series, and some events reverberate through multiple installments.
This particular volume was the visual inspiration behind the movie “Fifth element”. Story-wise, Luc Besson may have been inspired by the driver-hero of this book, but mostly by the “Fifth essence” story-line from “Incal”. As for this particular book – this is volume 15 of the Valerian cycle, and there is merit to reading the entire cycle, or be at least familiar with the events that occurred prior this installment, which is, frankly, should not be too difficult to do, as the hand-drawn and colored images in all of the volumes are rather beautiful, with vibrant colors, and ever-evolving analog visual style no more made in the current digital age. It is enough to mention that this series inspired numerous artists from George Lucas to Moebius.
Lastly, It should be noted that an average American reader may find the narrative a bit unclear at first - because, with a couple of exceptions, there is no inherently malevolent or evil force or group that our heroes have to fight against. It is often a matter of having groups with different agendas that are the cause of conflict, just like in real life. So, the narrative is presented not in simplistic black-and-white terms, but allows for certain moral ambiguity which prove good for character-development. And, there IS more creative and innovative thought found in each spread here than in the whole books by Marvel or DC.
I like the series, though, and like this part of the series. It moves well, and offers varied characters and sub-plots. And, even if i have some time-lines crossed over, I see characters that might have preceded the Ferengi.
For all its good, this doesn't challenge a grownup reader (I'm still looking for another Druillet, and am open to suggestions). And the art style seems unsophisticated for this decade - it owes more to the Asterix style than to newer, edgier drawing. Hey, I love Asterix, but I appreciate complexity and subtlety, too.
That said, Laureline is a great female lead. Strong, competent, and - well, I don't know a good word for this: maybe 'person.' Nothing I see here would be different if a male character took her place. I'm quite happy to see how little might change if Laureline were replaced by Laurence, and that could include some of the closer parts of their friendship. That's a side trip, though: he's good at his job, she's good at hers, and they work well together. I have professional relationships like that, and they're part of what makes my job pleasant.
I only just discovered this older series a few months ago. And now I get this great reward for learning of it: a movie was already in process when I started. You can bet I'll see it, if and when