This month on The Comics Alternative‘s Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek devote the entire episode to Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’s Valerian and Laureline series. They do this within the context of Luc Besson’s new film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. As the guys point out, the series’ English publisher, Cinebook, has begun to release new hardbound two-volume editions of title, but Derek and Edward are reviewing from the paperback single-story editions that have been available previously. In all, they discuss volumes 1-4, 6, 9-13, and 15, published through Cinebook between October 2010 and December 2016.
Among the many elements of Valerian and Laureline that they discuss are the evolution of Christin’s style over the course of the series, the ways in which the stories both adhere to and deviate from common science-fiction tropes, the strong (and non-objectifying) representations of Laureline, the title’s colorful cast of secondary or supporting figures, the series’ all-age quality, and the subtle ways in which the creators embed current (at the time of creation) socio-political contexts within the narrative. Even the guys only focus on one title this month, there’s more than enough to cover on this episode.
It’s the first Euro Comics episode of the new year, and Edward and Derek use the occasion to focus on the work of two contemporary French creators, using their latest books as springboards into their larger bodies of work. They begin with Cyril Pedrosa’s Equinoxes (NBM Publishing), a novelistic examination of life purpose and the uses we make of art in creating meaning. The text comprises four alternating storylines that become more enmeshed as the narrative progresses, combining comics with prose passages in establishing its contemplative tone. But Edward and Derek also bring in discussions of Pedrosa’s earlier works in translation, including Three Shadows (First Second), Hearts at Sea (Dupuis/Europe Comics) and Portugal (Dupuis/Europe Comics).
Next, the Two Guys examine Clear Blue Tomorrows, written by Fabien Vehlmann with art by Ralph Meyer and Bruno Gazzotti (Cinebook). This book is basically a series of science-fiction or fantastic stories brought together by a broader narrative frame: a time traveler from a dystopian future tasked with ghost writing stories for the would-be tyrant in hopes of changing the man’s occupational trajectory. It’s a curious spin on the “killing Hitler” sci-fi trope, though narratively reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights. The guys also discuss several of Vehlmann’s other works, including Last Days of an Immortal (Archaia), Beautiful Darkness (Drawn and Quarterly), and the all-age series Alone (Cinebook). There’s a lot packed into this episode…and so many reading ideas!
This month’s Euro Comics episode is later than usual, due to scheduling conflicts and accessibility issues. But Edward and Derek are back just in time to wish their listeners a happy holiday season and to present their first theme-based show of the monthly series. For December the Two Guys (almost) with PhDs discuss three works in the Western genre. They begin with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq’s Bouncer (Humanoids). This new edition collects the first seven volumes of the Jodorowsky’s series, comprising three intricate and involved storylines. The guys focus a lot on Jodorowsky’s spaghetti western style of storytelling and the unconventional twists therein, including physical grotesques and dominatrix executioners. They also spend time discussing some of the cultural and racial stereotypes found in the narratives, a topic to which they will return later in the episode.
Next, Edward and Derek look at two releases from a publisher that’s not yet been discussed on The Comics Alternative…an unfortunate oversight, up until now. The UK publisher of Franco-Beligan albums, Cinebook, provides the guys with Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski’s Western and the latest release in René Goscinny and Morris’s Lucky Luke series, The Ballad of the Daltons and Other Stories. In the former, Rosinski’s beautiful sepia-toned water colors creates a gritty postbellum world that is not unlike Boucq’s efforts in Bouncer — and both revolve around antiheroes with a missing arm. Both guys enjoyed Western, although Derek plays Monday morning quarterback in his thoughts on the book’s abrupt shift in narration during the last two pages. With Lucky Luke, Edward begins by focusing on the popularity of the series, but then he mentions the need for more socio-historical context in way of an introduction. The ethnoracial representations in these stories may leave some readers uncomfortable, but they speak to both the time in which they were written and the cultural positioning of the creators.