Read: Valerian – Volume 1, by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières

I first met Linda and Valentin, as they are named in Sweden, back in 1979. At the time I spent much of my time awake devouring anything that was vaguely readable, in any form, and I had already chewed through most of what the local library branch had to offer to a young teen. But the French spatio-temporal agents were a new kind of acquaintance. I was familiar with kids’ comics, of course, and with Tintin, DC Comics and the like. Linda and Valentin proved to be something altogether else. Idealistic, philosophical, visually stunning, both gritty/ugly and opulent, and break-neck daring. Of course I loved them!

It helped that Linda/Laureline every now and then had to bail Valentin out of his own messes – strong women was not par for the course back then, whatever history will have you believe.

Last year Scandinavian publishing house Cobolt issued the three first volumes of the collected works, and I held and thumbed volume 1, on several occasions, without opening up my wallet. Prime reason is that my personal collection already has about half of the albums previously published in Sweden.

Last Saturday I made things right, and let’s be clear – I am not sorry.

My 70’s and 80’s glue-backed soft-cover editions are brittle, pages threatening to fall out. Also, the original Swedish run was published out of order. These omnibuses sets thing right and I can finally enjoy the series in the order it was originally written.

This first volume starts with the very first story, previously unpublished in album form in Sweden. It’s a bit rough but clearly shows promise, and it tells how Linda and Valerian/Valentin became companions. The second story is The City of Shifting Waters, unabridged and with original cover from the Pilote magazine that featured it. That in itself is worth the money, in my opinion. Third and last is The Empire of a Thousand Planets. That story is, together with Birds of the Master and Ambassador of the Shadows, the one that I know the best, and I must admit that here the new translation chafes a bit, with new names or word constructs. But still thoroughly enjoyable.

It must be remembered, though, that these three stories were the start of something that would grow up to be great, but that at this point was trying out its costume, its format. Keeping that in mind I definitely enjoyed reading this volume. And if anything I’m looking at my purse, trying to justify purchases of volumes 2 to 4.

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Review: V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore & David Lloyd

Long time no write… I actually finished V for Vendetta more than two weeks ago but life have been hectic so…

Reading this back to back with The Incal was very interesting. They both have a totalitarian state as setting for their stories, and they are both attempts at the graphic novel format. Similarities end there, though.

Where The Incal is flamboyantly coloured and drawn V for Vendetta is clearly born from the super hero graphic style – sparse, lots of contrast, not much colour at all. Where the story of The Incal is New Ageish mumbojumbo V for Vendetta is, while hard, cold and dystopic much more rooted in a rationalist tradition.

Both are interesting reads but V for Vendetta is though-provoking and perhaps a bit disturbing in how people are portrayed as victims and opportunists while The Incal, despite the dystopian setting, is a sparkling firework – dazzling as long as it lasts but fast forgotten.

V for Vendetta shows how people’s need to survive works to suborn us into accepting conditions and actions we would not have thought ourselves capable to, had we lived in better times. Historical evidence shows that the picture painted by the story isn’t that far off a very well beaten track indeed and that makes the story worth reflecting over.

What I feel most ambivalent about is the politics of the book. Anarchy is, to me, not about taking your faith in your own hands or about having a say in how the world is ruled. As a young one I flirted with that -ism and both my readings and my practical experiences from how an anarchist movement work show that at heart it is libertarian, without regard to those who cannot, for different reasons, speak for themselves. As such is it’s not a democratic movement, in my not so humble opinion – it only masks itself as one.

The way the story is told it is not clear which way the authors lean in these matters – a bit pro, a bit con, more interested in telling a tale than in promoting ideology, perhaps, and only using this particular -ism to provoke thoughts in the reader? This ambivalence is part of what makes the story such a good one.

A must-read.

Review: The Incal (omnibus), by Moebius & Jodorowsky

Back when time began I loved reading comics. Especially Tintin and Asterix but it didn’t much matter what it was – I read it. And at one point someone decided to run Blueberry in the Phantom comic magazine. This was how I discovered Giraud, and later on his alter ego Moebius.

Back then Moebius was, perhaps, a bit too much for me. I don’t know. Anyway, I just passed him by (I own some of his albums, but…), in favour of Enki Bilal and Hugo Pratt (Corto Maltese).

So, about a year ago I started eyeing the omnibus edition of The Incal. It was not inexpensive so I closed my eyes and stayed away from it. Then, last fall, I caught sight of it on a shelf at the local library. I was on my way out so I let it sit, but ever since I’ve kept an eye out for it. And at last it was back on its shelf.
Of course I grabbed it.

I was not rewarded.

Back in the days what attracted me was the colourful graphics. And I still enjoy the drawings and the compositions. But the story is pure mumbo-jumbo. A unimpressive mish-mash of various new age semi-religions that in combination with zero character development and character believability leaves the visual imagery the only interesting aspect of the story.

Not an aspect to ignore, especially since it IS a graphic novel – but I for one was happy that it was a library loan because I would not want to waste prime shelf real estate on this rather hefty tome.