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.
This month on the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek discuss two black-and-white narratives, one an adaptation of a classic text and another an offbeat tale of aliens and relationships. They begin with Christophe Chabouté’s rendering of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (note the lack of hyphen in the title), released earlier this year from Dark Horse Books. After mentioning many of the earlier comics adaptations of the great American novel — and there are a lot — they plunge into Chabouté’s handling, highlighting some of the differences from the earlier versions. Both cohosts come from two very different perspectives in their analyses, since Derek is very familiar with the original novel and Edward has not yet read it. As such, their approaches are varied and multifaceted.
Next, they turn to the latest translation of Manuele Fior, The Interview(Fantagraphics). This is a markedly different kind of story from 5,000 km Per Second, a book that Gwen and Derek reviewed last year. As Edward points out, the draw of The Interview isn’t so much the story, but its tone or the affect generated by the text. This is a tale about relationships, and Fior’s art deftly expresses the subtitles and complications that underlie all of our interactions. You may come away from this book with a feeling of uncertainly and irresolution, but that seems to be a part of Fior’s project.
Edward and Derek are back with the latest Euro Comics episode. This month, they focus on recent translations of the work of Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Flight of the Raven (IDW/EuroComics) and both volumes of The Reprieve (Europe Comics). Edward is very familiar with Gibrat’s work, as he was the translator of The Reprieve, and so he provides his insights within that context. Throughout their discussion of these narratives, the guys highlight what they see as the thematic links between the two, all of which springs from the books’ settings: WW II France during German occupation. Indeed, the two stories are companion pieces with the character Cécile appearing in both. The Reprieve takes place before the Normandy invasion with Julien Sarlat, escaping from mandatory German labor, hiding out in his small hometown with the help of Cécile and one of her acquaintances in the French Resistance. The action in Flight of the Raven begins around the time of the Allied landing, with Cécile’s sister, Jeanne, being jailed for unlawful weapons possession. She is a communist and active member of the Resistance, and her story is interlinked with that of François, a roguish thief who appears apolitical. As both Edward and Derek point out, Gibrat uses both tales to explore ideas concerning commitment, responsibility, and collaboration, and each of the characters his stories illustrates facets of engagé. The art in both works is lush and beautiful, and Gibrat’s pacing is aptly handled given the contextual action, and sometimes the lack thereof, embedded in each narrative.
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!
For the November episode in the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek take a look at two new releases of older titles. They begin with Hariton Pushwagner’s Soft City (New York Review Comics). Began in 1969 and completed in 1975, the book was lost for a number of years but then rediscovered in 2002. Since then, the original art from Soft City hasbeenexhibited in the Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art and the Sydney Biennial, both in 2008. In fact, part of the guys’ coverage of the book revolves around the topic of comic art as exhibition. But most of their discussion involves the text’s symmetrical construction, its poetic imagery, and its mixed futuristic tone.
After that, Edward and Derek turn to a new collected edition work from one of comics’ legends. The World of Edena is the first in Dark Horse Book’s new Moebius Library, and it brings together Jean Giraud’s (or Moebius’s) five-volume series. The guys discuss the book’s origins, beginning as promotional comic for the French car manufacturer Citroën in 1983 and then ending as a full-fledged, philosophical, and very trippy series in 2001. There is a lot to explore of the book’s many narrative facets, and the Two Guys spend much of their time looking at the themes of exploration and sexuality, the dream-infused nature of the story, its comedic undertones, and the clean-line style and lush colors that define its art.