This one is interesting.
It is a bit of an oddity in many ways, but it is a good one.
First published in 1971, this sees space adventurers Valerian and Laureline land on the planet Syrte – capital of the titular Empire, and through an innocent transaction in a local market, become embroiled in a tale of political intrigue that may just spell the end of an empire…
So, why do I say this is odd?
It is a tale very much of its time. The art, while very good and full of incredible imagination and dynamism, is somewhat old fashioned. Design and general aesthetic wise, it is generally in the pre-Star Wars camp (more of this later).
The story too is somewhat dated. Or in particular, the story telling. It suffers, again to the modern eye, from too many speech bubbles with too many words, and too much of the tale is told as exposition in caption boxes.
I don’t want to read that, “'X', through some daring do, managed to escape to the ship” – I want to see it happen!
Having said that though, the story is not a bad one, and while the twist may be not too shocking to the 21st Century audience, it may have been revelatory back in the day!
And back to the Star Wars reference.
While it is true some of the look is old fashioned, there is a decidedly modern feel to the story. The main characters in particular are not the usual staid or cynical spacer farers one would expect in Sci-fi of this era, they are a couple of attractive looking young adventurers. And as the editors point out at the back of the book, there are a number of occasions throughout this series of books where creators Mezieres and Christin were ahead of the curve with character and ship designs, as some of them seem to bear a resemblance to some aspects of Lucas’s behemoth.
So is this worth reading?
Of course it is, it is from Cinebook, after all. I don’t think it will be for everyone, for the reasons given above. I would like to think that this would be ideal for younger readers, but I fear that the large amounts of text may put some of them off.
So, one for the die hard sci-fi buff instead!