Though pages in this section focus on prose, an exception has been made for one leaf on the 'minor' branch of literature: comics. Valérian and Laureline is a science fiction comics series, written by Pierre Christin, drawn by Jean-Claude Mézières and published by Dargaud. They concern the adventures of two 'spatio-temperal agents' who travel through time and space to safeguard history against unwanted alterations. Christin and Mézières produced 23 albums, which are a feast for the eye.
First, the writing. The world of Valérian and Laureline is the stuff of science fiction, which Christin happily explores. Though he is not a master writer, especially his later stories carry more depth than the average comics. Hidden among the plentiful banter of the characters is substantial criticism on human society, where Earth is not a benign center of humanity, but an imperialistic power that clashes with alien civilizations. However the tone of the stories is positive. The hero and heroine generally do not vanquish their enemies, but reconcile them. The tales are about adventure, exploration and the endless diversity of the universe.
Being a comics series, pictures are at least as important as words. In the albums Mézières shows himself a master artist. With just a handful of lines and a few colors he can depict everything ranging from people, aliens, landscapes, scenes in space, indoor environments, natural elements and more. He knows how to handle perspective, can convincingly portray movement and has a keen eye for composition, balancing the main object and garnish. Especially his play with color and light is unparalleled. Sometimes characters and objects are displayed in full color, sometimes in monochrome and sometimes only as silhouettes. Like every master, he does not follow rotes but wields an arsenal of techniques, applying what is needed where it is needed, discarding what is superfluous.
The authors of the series noted that the art of Mézières was picked up by others. Several other comics were inspired by it and its images can even be found in movies like Conan the Barbarian and Independence Day. Especially the famous Star Wars films by George Lucas borrowed heavily from Valérian and Laureline. In 2017 the two characters got their own movie, in which the original authors worked with the crew. This is a dazzling show of graphics that moves so fast that it is hard to fully appreciate the images.
The albums of Valérian and Laureline are still available at Dargaud and various resellers. Below is a tiny sample of the art.