Without a rigid adherence on continuity these stories work as complete episodes that are fully rounded and accessible, but at a glance might seem slighter than the storytelling model prevalent in American comics. Yet, another regular staple of the "Pilote" magazine illustrates the point much more efficiently.
Charlier and Giraud's "Blueberry" is a comic book series that has endured at least one major change in direction. Starting out as an ensemble piece military western, following the initial story cycle, the creators have started mapping out smaller stories, that complimented each other and basically all fit in the western mold despite the many twists and turns. All told the story of Mike S. Donovan, an roguish character whose travels made for a very engrossing genre adventures. With the writer's death and the main strand of the series finished, Giraud simply shifted the story to Blueberry's final days, determined to tell a Tombstone epic that stood on its own, and hardly qualifies as a change of direction.
Yet, it's clear that the Franco-Belgian premier western title has had its phases and hardly constitutes a single story, except when viewed as the story of Blueberry's life, which is certainly a reading encouraged by its creators, seeing as how Donovan, actually ages through the saga that allowed its creators to create their own spins of most of the typical western scenarios. Precisely this aspect of Blueberry is picked up by Swiss-born Derib, whose "Buddy Longway" presents a much more unified story of a trapper living with his family in frontier, with all of the changes coming naturally, due to the passage of time and his children coming of age.
To pick a less extreme example, Vance and Van Hamme's "XIII" has followed the progression that thankfully inches much closer to Blueberry's part of the spectrum. The initial five album story was so successful that the creators decided to chart a new course for their popular characters, that tried to expand the conspiracy to more of the XX century hot-spots. This proved every bit as diverting and uneven as this implies, but the "Bourne identity"-inspired mystery provided with a canvas broad enough to let the reader gravitate to Vance and Van Hamme's detailed, entertaining stylings when the story details felt forced and stretched too thin.
man with the XIII tattooed on his skin will likely continue to exist in the late Cold war world of spies and characters hinting secrets about his past, quickly forgetting about the original creators' lukewarm epilogue.
Again, despite the fact that most of the cast ended up dead during the course of preceding albums, "Dargaud" is not at fault for continuing in the same mold. Despite the pretense of realism, at its core "XIII" is an adventure serial and as such more than welcome to continue to spin its wheels. After all, Vance and Van Hamme were the first to provide the road map for just such continued exploitation.
Taking a different publishing model into account, it's clear that the American genre comic book still has much more in common with traditional superhero industry than it appears at a first glance. In many ways, with its beginnings at DC and the subsequent Top Shelf edition, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" becomes a unique mirror to look upon the development of the modern genre comic in America.