By Mezieres & Christin
Valerian and Laureline have crash landed on a planetoid and although they've survived they are in dire straits and making the best of it in an inflatable raft. What's quickly apparent is that they are far from the first to have crashed here as they stumble upon a spaceship cemetery before falling foul of a huge waterfall. Fortunately they're rescued by the crew of a boat trawling for algae but are soon put to work beneath skies filled with flying creatures that the crew describe as the Birds of Madness. Valerian and Laureline learn that the birds serve the Master and keep his will, which appears to be the constant production of foodstuffs to sate his appetite. This enormous hunger leaves little for the workers that the Master tricks into his service by forcing their craft to ditch on the world.
There is little desire for an uprising because to defy the Master means a terrible visit from the Birds of Madness, but one inhabitant Valerian and Laureline befriend does have the passion to rise up, and when he does they back him up but only for them all to be cast into a pit with others considered to be trouble. From here Valerian and Laureline organise an escape, taking many from the pit with them, where they are pursued into the Master's private domain. It's from here they must confront the Master and secure freedom for themselves and the planetoid's populace.
It's easy to see why these stories were so popular when first published and why the series has stood the test of time. Mezieres and Christin think big and use the potential possibilities of a rich and plentiful galaxy to place Valerian and Laureline in strange and exotic locations. This is a very different approach to sci-fi than Cinebook's Aldebaran series which is much more about exploration, discovery and wonder, while this is about action, adventure and scale.
It's also got a sense of humour, albeit a gentle one, and doesn't take itself too seriously, so you'll have a few wry smiles while reading it, particularly when it comes to the ending. I wasn't initially convinced I'd like these books, but they're solid adventure tales well told and each one has been a welcome surprise - roll on the next one.
By Peter Bagge
Publisher: Dark Horse
So what with the recent release of Other Stuff we're rather spoiled for all things Bagge at the moment. Whereas Other Stuff is a collection of lesser known stories and strips Reset is presented as an original graphic novel and all new to boot (although, cheekily, it was a four part comic first).
The story opens at one of those American drivers' education classes that can form part of, or be an alternative to, prosecution, and we get to meet Guy Krause, a rather grumpy minor celebrity whose star has been fading for some time. Unknown to him he's being singled out to take part in a radical trial to explore the possibilities of a fantastic machine. Guy's told it allows you to virtually relive past experiences and explore a way of finishing them differently in a kind of a Groundhog Day way. Guy wouldn't be in the past, but it would feel like he was.
Guy's got a lot of issues and the trials barely get off the ground before he's thrown a wobbler and stormed out. And then there's an underlying air of mystery as to the trial's purpose and its ultimate aims that Guy steadily reveals as he enters a cycle of quitting and rejoining the project.
So this is Pete Bagge having a crack at a sci-fi story, and you can tell from very early on that this isn't Bagge's bag. Good sci-fi takes a concept and runs with it, exploring the possibilities and impacts, but this tale just doesn't seem to get to grips with itself. The technology is rather absurd and the explanation to how it works just sounds daft, so if it weren't for Bagge's sense of humour and mix of grotesque and misfit characters it would pretty much fall flat on its face. Fortunately, he is good at the latter so it saves itself to some degree, but as a sci-fi story with a conspiracy thrown in it's pretty weak stuff.
Bagge's best when writing about ordinary people coping with ordinary lives because he recognises that none of us really are ordinary but all have our quirks and absurdities that others have to deal with. With Reset he's trying to pull off something grander and, sadly, I don't think it really works.
And if you liked that (or didn't in this case): Give the recent Other Stuff a read - Bagge at his best
By Ocana & Runberg
This is a very daring story of lycanthropic creatures thrown headlong into the life of one of the world's most brilliant scientists, Charles Darwin. It's the kind of story that's so bold in its premise that it could quite easily fail to work at all, but Ocana and Runberg manage to steer a successful path through the potential pitfalls to achieve a rather brilliant period horror story.
I'll tread carefully as I don't wish to spoil the plot twists of the previous two books, but suffice to say that Darwin's knowledge of the terrible incidents is far deeper than anyone suspects, and it's not down to his scientific expertise or analytical brain. His self-doubts and fears, and later his relief, make him a rather impotent character in most of the situations he finds himself in, and it takes some time for him to take control of the situation and challenge the threat head-on. After all, Darwin is not a hero, nor a soldier, nor a man of action, so his deliberations and patience ring true.
The artwork comes into its own in this volume, creating a creeping menace as the story piles on the atmosphere and steadily reveals the nature of the beast. Certainly one of the best horror stories I've ever come across in comics.
And if you liked that: You just might enjoy BPRD from Dark Horse
A Ralph Steadman Retrospective Exhibition.
Over 100 works by Ralph Steadman - including his Fear and Loathing drawings, illustrations to the Alice books and Animal Farm, cartoons from Private Eye and Punch, wine drawings and his own children's books
Ralph Steadman will be signing copies of the STEADman@77 catalogue plus a maximum of one other book. The artist will sign a maximum of two copies of the catalogue for any one person. Please note he will not be signing any other material. No admission charge but those coming for the signing will only be admitted with catalogue. The usual admission charge to the STEADman@77 exhibition applies.
1 May - 8 September 2013
Opportunities to learn more about Ralph Steadman's work and meet the man himself. To attend these talks book online or by phone on 020 7580 8155.
27 June 6.30 - 7.30 pm £5, £4, £3
Illustrations by Steadman: Wonderland, Treasure Island and Beyond
Writer and broadcaster, Brian Sibley celebrates Ralph Steadman's radical interpretations of classic texts.
4 July & 3 September 6.30 - 7.30pm £5, £4, £3 Proud to be Weirrd
Cartoon Museum curator Anita O'Brien looks at Ralph Steadman's life and work.
6 July 1-3 pm Ralph Steadman Book signing
35 Little Russell Street
London WC1A 2HH
Tel: +44 (0)207 580 8155
Fax: +44 (0)207 631 0793 www.cartoonmuseum.org