It’s often a challenge to truly appreciate an innovative genre-defining piece of art when you come to it decades after the fact. Sure, you can hear all about the trendsetting wizardry of Citizen Kane, but in 2017, it’s mostly just a story about a newspaper publisher with a sled (my Dad’s rolling over in his Lazy Boy and he has no idea why).
I expected a similar experience reading Valerian, the esteemed French comic by Pierre Christian and Jean-Claude Mézières. After all, the first translated story, “Bad Dreams,” was published in 1967, and that’s practically B.C. As it turns out, though, Valerian is excellent with thoughtful science fiction that holds up today, and clearly influenced the Star Wars generation to follow.
Recent years and the 2017 film adaptation by Luc Beeson have led to an increase in translations and collected editions, making it a great time to try and explore Valerian for yourself. It’s a surprisingly unclear order to stories, with fans making a lot of custom orders to better reflect the deep and long-running adventures through space and time.
For example, the collection titled Valerian Volume 1: The New Future Trilogy, actually contains books #13 to #15 in the series. I started with this collection, and although I enjoyed, I absolutely felt like I was missing grounding in the universe.
To avoid similar confusion, I present the best collected edition approach to Valerian graphic novels below!
Valerian Reading Order
Book #0 “Bad Dreams”
Book #1 “The City Of Shifting Waters”
Book #2 “Empire of a Thousand Planets”
You’ll see plenty of recommendations – from staunch Valerian die-hards – that suggest it’s actually a big mistake to begin with “Bad Dreams” and “The City of Shifting Waters.” The primary reason is that these stories reflect the creators still getting a feel for what Valerian would ultimately become, which is better displayed in “Empire of a Thousand Planets.” The general concern is that Books #0 and Book #1 may turn you off to Valerian before you really get to see the science fiction journey at its peak.
Personally, I recommend you do start with those earliest works, as they set the rules of the universe and provide enough backstory that you feel grounded in the world. All of this is a fancy, overcomplicated way of saying “Uh, yeah, start at the beginning,” but this can be surprisingly confusing!
Book #3 “World Without Stars”
Book #4 “Welcome to Alflolol”
Book #5 “Birds Of The Master”
Book #6 “Ambassador of the Shadows”
Book #7 “On the False Earths”
Book #8 “Heroes of the Equinox”
Books 9 and 10 are connected stories, as are the ensuing books 11 and 12.
Following Valerian and Laureline’s adventures in “The Wrath of Hypsis,” the series continues with the oddly labeled “Volume 1” of the New Future Trilogy:
Book #13 On the Frontiers
Book #14 The Living Weapons
Book #15 The Circles of Power