If the only thing that is accomplished by Luc Besson’s Valerian movie this summer is to bring more American a greater awareness of French comic books, it will be worth it no matter what happens to the film itself. However, my fear is that even if the movie becomes a blockbuster, most people won’t try any of the books coming out of France. And that would be the real shame.
Once again, Titan Comics is bringing French writers and artists to the English-speaking world. This time is it Stephane Louis’ Khaal. The quick log line for the series would be Conan in Space. That is accurate in a way, but also sell this interesting book short.
The only remnants of a fallen galaxy wide empire, are the people stuck on a multi-generational prison space ship, E.T.H.R. The great-great-great-grandchildren of the original criminals are not even aware of the nature of their “world,” thinking they are on a planet. The resources of the ship are divided among three primary species, Humans, Etherials, and the Telepaths. The balance between the three is being upset by Khaal, the ruler of the humans.
Fearing that Khaal and the humans will be picking their bones if they try to take them one by one, the leaders of the other two species join together in a plot to overthrow Khaal by arranging for him to face off against 10 challengers to his rule at once.
Life among the humans is brutal and savage That savagery is how Khaal maintains his rule, but is also masks his intelligence and guile. Khaal has a couple of secret weapons that help him maintain his grip on the humans and aid him against the challengers.
Each side of the alliance against the humans has figured out part of the secret, but their only hope will be deciding if they can trust each other enough to reveal what their par of the secret might be.
Louis (Tessa, Intergalactic Agent) and Valentin Sécher have a lot to accomplish with this book. There is a lot of world building along with throwing the readers into the middle of a revolt among the humans and an oncoming war of the species. Much of this world building is on Sécher’s shoulders as it is done with the visuals more than the words.
And the art more than meets this challenge. The different parts of the ship are rendered lushly and each of the members of the different species is an individual, not just a quick cut and paste. Everything about the world that they inhabit has a sense of grandeur that has been worn away as civilization has fallen to savagery. And while those on the spaceship may not know the truth of their world, Sécher never lets the reader forget it with beautiful exteriors of the ship orbiting a planet in a cloud of debris.
As I said, superficially Khaal can read a bit like Heavy Metal meets Conan. And it embraces those tropes, but there is something interesting if you want to look deeper at this book.
Writer: Stephane Louis
Artist: Valentin Sécher
Publisher: Titan Comics