Valerian and Laureline saved the universe in The Wrath of Hypsis, but doing so altered time, and Earth disappeared. They initially believed this to be an unavoidable consequence of what they’d done, but have since learned that Earth may exist in a dark and uncharted area of space known as the Great Void, where there are no stars, and no known routes. In At the Edge of the Great Void they booked passage on a spaceship and headed into the unknown.

It’s a measure of Pierre Christin’s humane approach to the series that he begins not with a sense of foreboding or a battle, but with the crew of a small exploratory craft each describing what they’d like to see at the centre of the Great Void. It’s one of several charming scenes that mark Valerian and Laureline as unique, because no other writer would think to include them. The previous book introduced a group of foul smelling thieves, and the sample page has them communicating in a cemetery. Jean-Claude Mézières supplies a sequence that has very little effect on the overall story, although hinting at what’s coming, but is beguiling and a nice character touch, making us think differently of the Limboz. Elsewhere Mézières supplements his usual loose linework with painted pages to indicate the difference between the standard world and that as occupied by the Wolochs.

The Wolochs are the dominant race in the Great Void, immense slabs of decorated stone, yet living beings, with power beyond previous knowledge. They communicate via a form of prophet, and with the overlords of Rubani (see The Circles of Power), and beyond the void to evil beings in the known universe, who they manipulate to their own ends. This is Christin tying the Wolochs into so many previous Valerian and Laureline adventures where their presence had been unknown. It’s a neat piece of continuity alteration, a feat that’s become something of a speciality for Christin.

Memories From the Futures follows The Time Opener, but to all intents and purposes this is the penultimate Valerian and Laureline story and it’s a complete charmer. There’s the wonder of how Christin can introduce, in passing, so many elements from previous books without foggying the story in the slightest, and his relentlessly optimistic attitude, a deliberate step away from the dystopia of most modern science fiction graphic novels. Fighting is a last resort, used only when there’s no other option, and there’s almost always a way to progress without doing so. Characters talk to each other, help each other, and discover common ground, and even when they can’t the preservation of life is a priority.

Over the course of the series Christin’s been at his best when he’s either unpicking a thread or tying a knot, and he’s doing both in The Order of the Stones. By the end there’s a definite course to be followed, and a final effort to restore Earth is what awaits in The Time Opener.