One of the advantages of Luc Besson’s Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets this summer is that English translations of the original Valérian and Laureline graphic novels are now becoming widely available in advance of the movie. Cinebook, via partner Europe Comics, has done a great job in their re-release of Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin’s Valérian and Laureline: The Circles of Power. First published in French in 1994, it is now available again in English.
While very popular in Europe, Valérian and Laureline haven’t really had a big audience in the United States or Canada. Their stories started in 1967 and the last book came out in 2010. Throughout the long history, the series has only been written by its creators, Mézières and Christin.
Mézières and Christin are close friends of Luc Besson and they worked with him on the design elements of The Fifth Element, which came out three years after this graphic novel. Much of that design work and humor are on display in this book. Indeed, it is hard to imagine someone who enjoyed the Fifth Element who would not like this book.
The book opens with our Spatio-Temporal Agents on the planet Rubanis with their spaceship, the XB982, broken down and in need of a lot of repairs. They need seven hundred thousand blutocks to fix the ship and return home, but the heroes are currently cashless. But luckily, their old friends the Shingouz have a job that will more than pay for the repairs and the Shingouz’s 10 percent commission.
The flightless, birdlike aliens with Snuffleupagus’ snouts send Valérian and Laureline to the planet’s chief of police. The police chief needs to find out who is actually running the planet. The major city on the planet is built in a series of rings and the more important and richer you are the closer you live to the center circle. The problem is that no one who goes in to the center circle ever comes out.
To help them out the chief gives them a contact and Grumpy, a small animal who poops petty cash. Laureline and Valérian quickly get separated and have to deal with double crosses, corrupt guards, and hypno-lights. They also have to solve the secondary mystery of why the heads of all the leaders on the planet are shrinking at an alarming rate.
This book is a fun adventure and one of the better more recent Valérian and Laureline adventures. If you seen the trailer for their movie this summer and want to get to know more about them this is as good a starting point as any. After all, the series spans roughly 40 years of publication.
Writers and Artists: Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin
Translator: Jerome Saincantin
Publisher: Cinebook via Europe Comics