Review: The Metabarons

Published by Humanoids                         Story by Alejandro Jodorowsky             Artwork by Juan Giménez


This review has spoilers, so if you haven’t read The Metabarons yet, I suggest you get on your paleo-horse and rectify this most heinous of errors! 

Cover for #1

The Metabarons is an epic science fiction saga spanning five generations, about a family of warriors who adhere to a strict code of honour. Anyone who’s read The Incal will be familiar with the most recent Metabaron character. It is a saga filled to the brim with high drama, suspense, love, humour, betrayal and even incest (which I will get to later).

Tonto and Lothar

The story is narrated by two of the Metabaron’s servant robots, Tonto and Lothar. They are constantly bickering like two school children; Lothar is a very bad listener and is continuously interrupting Tonto who in turn berrates him for his stupid questions. Sometimes, Lothar will fry a diode or leak coolant due to the suspense of Tonto’s story!

The story of the Metabarons begins on an isolated world, Marmola, on which a tribe, ruled by Baron Berard of Castaka, export huge blocks of marble. It is a stunning world filled with luminous coloured marble towers.

The spectacular marble world of Marmola

Marmola is also the native location of a sacred blue oil called epiphyte, which has anti-gravity properties unknown to the rest of the universe. This substance is an obvious parrallel to the “spice” in Frank Herbert’s Dune, which of course, Jodorowsky tried in vain to adapt for the big screen. At times, The Metabaron feels like his version of Dune, and you wonder what mind-bending spectacle we would have witnessed if he had been successful in bringing it to the big screen. But that of course, is a whole different story, and one which itself has passed into stuff of legend.

The existence of the substance has been a closely guarded secret of the Castakas for generations. However, it is inadvertently revealed after Othon von Salza,  the son-in-law of Baron Berard is trapped beneath a huge slab of marble. Berard is reluctant to help at first giving priority to guardung the secret (and with potential buyers from Imperial Merchants Guild present) but gives in after his daughter, Edna, and grandson, Bari force him to assist Othon.

Soon knowledge of the epiphyte spreads far and wide in the universe and everyone wants a bit of it.  The planet’s orbit becomes a battlefield, with various powers trying to obtain the precious oil. The traitorous Imperial Black Endoguard emerge the victors.

They invade Marmola while Othon and his tribe attempt to defend it. Othon breaks his son Bari’s legs in order to keep him from fighting. Othon emerges victorious, although he and his son Bari are the only survivors of the Castaka tribe.

The Imperial couple, rulers of the known galaxy, are astonished by the achievement of Othon and visit him. Othon shows them where the epiphyte was hidden in exchange for:

  • A percentage of the sales for anti-gravity technology
  • A new planet to which their palace would be transferred
  • A gift for his son intended to restore the joy lost with his crippled legs.

The gift is a magnificent horse, a species that has been extinct for 20,000 years and which has been revived by genetic manipulation. Bari is indeed filled with joy and it seems his worries have subsided by this gift.

Bari with his horse

However, the joy is short lived. One night some pirates attempt to steal the horse. Othon kills them in retaliation, but tragedy strikes. In his attempts to rescue the horse, Othon is injured by an attacker and in the process, is castrated.

The trauma from losing his manhood transforms him, he takes on a cruel streak and sacrifices the natural beauty of Okhor into a rustic Castaka fortress, where he lives with the two daughters of his faithful servant. He invests a large part of his fortune in the development of the first ‘metabaronic’ weapons and begins the tradition of cybernetic implants; and later becomes a mercenary of immense skill and power.

With the destruction of 100,000 pirate vessels, he recieves the title of Metabaron, and the Imperial couple promise a gift; a woman named Honorata.

Othon however, is filled with rage after he learns that she is a Shabda-Oud priestess (an order of witches). However, his anger subsides when she tells him that she can bear Othon a child if he places a drop of his blood in her uterus.

Err…no comment!

The daughters of Othon’s servant are jealous and enraged and try to commit suicide, taking the pregnant Honorata with them;  Othon shoots an injection of epiphyte into Honorata and saves her.

A floating Aghnar

This affects his son, Aghnar von Salza, of weight; Othon becomes incensed when he realises that Aghnar will not be a worthy Metabaron and tries to kill him. Honorata forbids him, promising Othor that their son would be a worthy successor. She goes into exile in  the sacred mountains of Anasirma, where she trains him on his mental powers and the ability to withold pain.

Incestous liasions

It is here that we first see signs of incest as Aghnar kisses his mother after a heavy training bout.

When Aghnar is seven years old he returns to the Castaka fortress where his father puts him to the test. He defeats a giant robot set against him by his father afterwhich he has to withstand pain as his feet are crushed by a machine. They are replaced by steel ones (hence carrying on the Metabaronic tradition).

Honorata then confesses she was ordered to give birth to a hermaphrodite instead of a son, by the priestesses of Shabda-Oud, and they would be returning back after seven years to reclaim the child.

The Shabda-Oud

For her disobedience, the Shabda-Oud attempt her destruction, Aghnar fights the Shabda-Oud and emerges victorious, although he soon learns that his mother cannot accompany him and his father to safety as the world is obliterated.

Aghnar and his father finds themselves on a hostile world with floating apes and giant mushrooms. Othon is dying as his lungs were poisoned after their escape from Okhor, and to assure his son’s ability to avenge his mother, orders Aghnar to fight him to the death, and Aghnar seizes the title of Metabaron for himself.

Now the solitary human on the planet, Aghnar befriends an ape creature called Kiawoutai, and soon becomes tribe leader. Through the help of the apes, he captures a Shabda-Oud Cetacyborg battleship. He uses his mind to control the three priestesses on board, and the battleship as a vessel to carry out his vengeance.

However, he is distracted by the Cetacyborg’s crew’s objective which is to capture the beautiful Princess Oda whose genes can engender the hermaphrodite, which the Shabda-Oud witches still want to produce for nefarious reasons.

He arrives on the planet Amahdis, and falls in love with Princess Oda, against her father’s wishes. However, he gives in after Princess Oda threatens to kill herself.

After a telepathic confrontation with the sisterhood, Oda suffers debilitating injuries. He meets a woman who is revealed to be his mother, Honorata. She promises to help Oda, and unbeknown to Aghnar, transfers her own soul into the body of Oda. Aghnar is overjoyed and immediately indulges in incestous coitus with Oda/ Honorota, who thereafter bears him a son.

Another incestous encounter

However, he soon learns the truth and is disgusted by his incest and attempts to kill his son, blowing his head off in his rage. Oda/Honorata gives him a cybernetic head to replace his own and is thus christened Steelhead. Aghnar leaves, telling Oda/Honorata that he will return to challenge his son in a duel. She accepts and promises that their son will carry on the Metabaronic tradition.

Steelhead

The duel does come to pass, but Steelhead shows a cruelness which shocks even his father. It seems his heart is just as steely as his features. He soon ascends the title of Supreme Metabaron, however, after an encounter with Princess Doña Vicenta (whose father Steelhead has killed, along with the destruction of their sacred tree)  realises that he lacks the capacity to love.

So he goes searching for knowledge of love, and soon finds a disembodied head of the Zaran Krleza, the last poet in the galaxy. They are soon united in body and head but maintaining individual personalities.

Steelhead and Zaran become Melmoth, and declare their love of Doña Vicenta. In order to win her affections, Melmoth clones her father Don Nicannor, and replaces the tree with another.

Doña Vicente is soon won over,  but the clone of her father fails to recognise her, and is possessed with raging lust towards his own daughter.

He attempts to take her by force, whereupon Vicenta gives him her eyes. His memories come back and he is mortified by his actions.

He permits Melmoth and Doña Vicenta to marry; but Melmoth discovers that Tonto, his robotic servant, has replaced her eyes by cybernetic sensors, and shuns her.

Eventually Melmoth reverts to the form and character of Steelhead, and takes care of his wife.

When unable to preserve both of Vicenta’s twin children alive, Steelhead removes the male twin’s brain and implant it in the female child. Aghora would be trained as a warrior, who eventually faces his/her father in single combat to become Metabaron.

Later on, she gives birth to “No Name” who would of course, grow up to become the Metabaron we know. The run ends on issue 17, however, the story was completed later on where we learn of how the Metabaron received the scar above his eye.

The Metabarons is one of the most mind-boggling, unpredictable, and bizarre comic series I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It is filled with mad ideas, and eye-popping visuals, there is nothing quite like it and that is why it is so unique. After reading it, everything else will seem pale in comparison. You can see its influence in many of the science-fiction comics of today, namely Saga and Prophet.

Jodorowsky excels himself from page to page, coming up with even more crazier ideas which twist and morph into a paleo-masterpiece!

And this is made even better by Giménez’s breath-taking artwork. From epic space battles, emotional characters, to the bizarre creatures and fauna inhabiting these strange worlds, his art is absolutely gorgeous to behold, at once transporting you inside the universe of the Metabarons with masterful precision.

There are times in a comic where the story is let down by the art or vice versa, but here, it is a beautiful union of words and illustrations.

The Metabarons is a colossal achievement in science fiction storytelling. It is so good in fact, that it may even rival The Incal as Jodorowsky’s best work.

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