Every few albums Pierre Christin turns out a Valerian and Laureline story that’s one long chase sequence with some eccentric detours, and that’s possibly signified by Jean-Claude Mézières’ cover, very much the companion piece to The Circles of Power, the album before last. Your enjoyment of Orphan of the Stars will depend firstly on whether you consider such albums match the more cerebral output, and secondly for your tolerance of the bratty Caliphate of Iksaladam, with whom Valerian and Laureline were saddled in Hostages of Ultralum. That plot was good enough to bury his annoying qualities, or at least distract from them, but here he’s rapidly tiresome.

There’s still a considerable reward for the Caliphate’s return, and while Valerian and Laureline are aware of the life awaiting him, others are less ethically scrupulous, and the book opens with another set of bounty hunters on their trail. Despite his annoying nature and constant pranks, Valerian and Laureline are determined not to leave the Caliphate to his fate.

Much of Orphan of the Stars seems going through the motions on Christin’s part. The feature has thrived on his active imagination, and a constant parade of new and interesting ideas, but here he relies on recycling many of his previous innovations. The time device, and particularly the transmuter are frequently used, and there’s some half-hearted satirising of English public schools and the film industry. In terms of new ideas, the bounty hunters considering their movements in musical terms is about as novel as this gets.

Mézières isn’t greatly inspired either. Beyond a decent opening sequence he’s professional and detailed where necessary, but there’s nothing memorable. The cast features more humans than usual, and there are no glorious alien vistas. In Uncertain Times is next and it’s much better.