The Best Thing I Didn’t Know About Valerian & Laureline

Valerian & Laureline, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Cinebook

It’s that they love each other.

Valérian and Laureline is a french-language comic, originally published over six decades (the late 1960s through the first ten years of the 21st century), and in English currently by Cinebook. They put out single-volume books as well as bonanza compendiums; I’ve only, so far, read three of the former. But three was enough— enough to notice the beauty in the body language. These kids are cute.

Laureline and Valérian are space-travelling “spatio-temporal agents,” whizzing in and out of the nth dimension, getting in japes and scrapes and making friends and foes throughout the galaxies. You may have seen their Besson-directed cinematic debut this summer; of course, on the other hand, like myself, you may not. That’s neither here nor there. I mention it only because the trailer (which I did see) made such absolute nothing of the element that, in reading, I like the best: the affection between its leads. Are they lovers, officially? What is the legal definition of their longstanding partnership? I don’t know. I don’t know! But it doesn’t matter, because it’s not a comic about words for romance or sweetness. It’s a comic about adventure. Valérian and Laureline adventure, together. They love each other. We know because we can see.

Valerian & Laureline, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Cinebook

When a girl and a boy adventure together I assume from experience a Modesty Blaise-Willie Garvin template: a boy and a girl who aren’t “like that,” as in, who don’t bone down. “Just Good Friends.” An example from the space-opera genre Valerian and Laureline shares is Cobra, where the human male protagonist lives with a woman he’s very fond of and very dear to but with whom he is such a sexual mismatch she’s literally made of metal with no apparent “apparatus.” I assume from experience as a reader but as well I assume from experience as a reader-around— sequential storytellers in english-language media have gone on record numerous times decrying the so-called Moonlighting problem (think back to the discourse surrounding the deletion of Spider-Man’s own marriage) — the idea that a couple (a romantically entwined duo) is a less dynamic screen or page pair than a non-couple. So I didn’t expect V and L to hold hands. I didn’t expect them to kiss. I didn’t expect them to climb on each other or address their intimate contact head-on, without emotional lampshading, or to trust and rely on each other so physically without their narrative putting up walls between their psyches.

Valerian & Laureline, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Cinebook

But that’s what they do! And I love it so much!

Valerian & Laureline, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Cinebook

Stories about space become stories about intimacy almost by necessity; space is called “space,” its presence in the fiction is physical and psychological. Who’s on your ship? That’s probably the only person you absolutely know you’ll ever see again. I’m a big fan of romance and physical delight in fiction. Even if I wasn’t, it still feels like Valerian and Laureline stands out among English-language comics and even manga examples of space fiction by placing a tangibly attracted and diplomatically settled couple at the centre of a star trek/star war/space western/etc. And by having their petting, by my experience, often show up as not titillation for audience but comfort for character. Moments of fear, moments of nerves, moments of anxiety: a ruffle of the hair, a hand held, a hug. The times when we need to be touched, placed cathartically on the page. Placed, with great care for balance, between feats of derring-do and extreme, canny achievement.


Valerian & Laureline, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Cinebook

Jean-Claude Mézières is a fantastic, influential artist (see again: the Star Wars) of costume, landscape and alien nature. But his knack for illustrating casual contact shouldn’t be understated! Pierre Christin is celebrated for various large-scale themes, but his attention to intimate detail likewise shouldn’t go unnoticed. Valerian and Laureline volumes feel good to read in ways I didn’t anticipate, because fondness and the handsy goodwill of one’s partner empower in ways more pleasant than the wielding of a ray gun.
Valerian & Laureline, writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Cinebook

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money

5 thoughts on “The Best Thing I Didn’t Know About Valerian & Laureline

  1. For me this is what true real love is. Growing and experiencing things with your partner.

    I read those comics before I could almost read (5-6y) and I think they set the romantic tone for me in life.

    What could be better then doing important things to save the universe. Experience and shade those moment with your best friend that you also truly love and at the same time want to bone when posible 🙂

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