So, I’m assuming that by now, most people whose interests intersect the quadrants of movie and science fiction are aware that Luc Besson is preparing a Valérian & Laureline adaptation.
If your interests also intersect the Franco-Belgian Comics quadrant, then you’re probably hovering between ecstasy and profound fear as to what the resulting adaptation might be. You’re probably also wondering why the movie’s title has reverted to the old “Valerian” without any mention of his most prominent and equal partner in adventures, the spunky Laureline. You and me both. Whatever.
L’Ambassadeur des Ombres (Ambassador of the Shadows) is one of my favourites of the series. Its meandering nature has always fascinated me, I always had a sort of strange displacement feeling in front of Laureline’s desperate quest to find Valerian on the sprawling and labyrinthine station of Point Central, maybe because ultimately, the really important thing turns out to be what happens between, in the tunnels and canals that link the different sections, rather than in them.
But first things first, the human ambassador arrives on Point Central with his two bodyguards, Valérian and Laureline. Then proceeds to be swiftly kidnapped literally two words into his speech. It’s fine. Nobody likes speeches anyway.
Laureline is left with a mess on her hands, cocooned humans, a Protocol Officer who’s always gripping about things not being proper, and no place to start looking for her abducted colleague and her ambassador. Which is when the Shingouz come in.
If the Shingouz give you a sense of déjà-vu, let me remind you that this album came out in 1975. The Shingouz are information brokers and they drive a mean bargain. This is the first ever time they appear in the series, but far from the last.
After being led from one section of the station to the other, Laureline gets a tip about another way to determine where her guys have disappeared to…
… and by then, she’s understandably getting more than a little bit disgusted and frustrated with this whole bloody thing. I always thought the Valerian/Ambassador part of the story was weak sauce, to be honest. They’re put in the perennial “damsel in distress” position and don’t get to actually do much until the end, which… well, I’m not going to spoil it, just in case.
It’s still one of my favourites.
(For one more look at some pages of this volume, get thee to this post, where Laureline vists the Red District of Point Central in search of information.)
L’ambassadeur des Ombres is the 6th volume in the Valerian & Laureline Science-fiction series by Pierre Christin (scenario) and Jean-Claude Méziere (art), Evelyne Tranlé (colours).
The classical Bande-Dessinée series started in 1967 and is still ongoing.