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Birds of The Master (Valerian and Laureline Vol. 5)

Pierre Christin
Art: Jean-Claude Mézières

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi
Birds of The Master (Valerian and Laureline Vol. 5) by Pierre Christin
Cover concept by Lorenzo Princi, 17 May 2017
I maintain that the master only exists because... we admit his existence.

Birds of The Master starts without the exposition one becomes accustomed to in the Valerian and Laureline series. So much so that I was turning back to the title page thinking I may have skipped a page of two. Christin thrusts his protagonists right into their next adventure, crash landing our two favourite spatio-temporal agents on a strange planet. 

I found it quite bold and exciting and overall the volume doesn't include the overbearing white panels of text which the series is guilty of at times. Perhaps the creative team had decided they'd found their audience and weren't going to explain the setting again or perhaps it was just a one of for this volume? In any case, I found it refreshing.

Our stranded heroes are soon rescued from the sea and aboard a vessel where an assortment of aliens are collecting algae to return to the ominous one they call 'The Master'. Despite the hard labour, they explain they will only be left with some remaining scraps to share once their mysterious master is given his fill.

When they return to camp, it soon becomes apparent that everyone on the planet has similar stories of being marooned and it isn't clear if their are any true natives, however worship of the unseen master has become almost unanimously adopted despite unclear origins of the faith. The only real world connection to him are the dark, birds of madness which attack those who are blasphemous, creating a culture of fear among the settlers. They warn Valerian and Laureline against any heresy, though Laureline of course is much more sceptical of what is going on.

An interesting examination of tradition and faith, and the ability of people to search for deeper connections and meaning in coincidence. Our heroes however, will lead a band that seeks a profane truth, and a way of the planet, believing something less than holy is behind the society they deem little more than slaves.

One of my favourites in the series so far and in the vein of classic Star Trek episodes is the perfect use of a free roaming space travel procedural. By removing all Earthly attributes, Christin and Mézières can tackle serious themes and subjects by putting them under the light of a literal different moon (or two).