I am a huge fan of horror comics, and it still excites me when I stumble upon a work which is genuinely creepy.
The Enigma of Amigara Fault is one such comic.
It’s a short Lovecraftian horror manga by Junji Ito, which was originally published in the back of the second volume of his zombie/fish apocalypse book Gyo (which is a brilliant piece of work).
A boy named Owaki, and a girl, Yoshida, meet on Amigara Mountain, where a strange and unsettling discovery has been made.
Human shaped holes are scattered across the mountain face, and gradually it becomes clear that the holes are ‘calling’ to the people they are shaped like. Yoshida also feels this calling, although Owaki tries his best to help her.
What happens next is the stuff of nightmares. Suffice to say, those who are claustrophobic should think twice about reading this story, as certain images will linger with you and haunt your dreams for a long time!
There is a powerful symbolism in the story which delves on themes of compulsion, and the urge within a person to destroy their own self. Of course, the mountain is the source of their compulsion, and ultimately, madness.
It is difficult to find a copy of the manga today, but there are certain online sites like this one, where you can read it. Like many manga comics out there, one thing to remember is to read it from right to left otherwise it might leave you very confused.
Okay, here’s the thing about reading a comic set in the Jodoverse; once you have your mind totally meta-fucked by the absolute insanity of everything you read and see, every other comic will seem like paleo-shit in comparison. There is no going back to your former life of all the sanitised garbage mainstream comics churn out year in year out, you’re sucked into a blackhole where your mind is subject to a re-awakening of colossal proportions. Jodorowsky will make you re-evaluate everything you think you know about what constitutes a great science-fiction comic.
The Technopriests was originally released from 1998 to 2006, and is every bit as enjoyable as his previous works (including The Incal and The Metabarons). This time round, he deals with themes which are very resonant with what is happening around the world today, with the rise of immersive computer games, and the brainwashing so to speak, of the masses.
The 1000 year old Technopriest Albino, the series’ main character and narrator, is retelling his life in the company of his trusted talking paleo-rat, Tinigrifi. The first story follows Albino (who likens himself to Moses) leading an exodus of 500,000 young technopriests on a Star Trek as they try and find the promised galaxy. The second plot follows his childhood and rise to become the Supreme Technopriest and the third follows his family during that same time period. There are also incidents from the present.
Albino begins his fascinating tale with the introduction of his mother, Panepha. A beautiful young virgin destined to become the Imperial Palace’s oracle, she is instead viciously raped by a horde of invading pirates.
Soon she gives birth to a white-skinned Albino, his strong, grey-skinned brother Almagro, and their red-skinned, four-armed sister Onyx. Panepha shuns Albino and his sister, seeing them as mutants and unworthy of her love, while embracing Almagro as her own. She retreats away, and with the help of a herd of Guanodonts (think alien cows!), and creates the Great Kamenvert Factory, makers of the galaxy’s finest cheese!
Disregarded by his mother for his weak physical nature, Albino spends time playing video games and dreams to one day become a video game maker. He is made to clean the dirt in the Guanodonts’ stables along with his sister, while their mother and brother Almagro, mistreat them at every given opportunity.
One day he tells his mother how he would like to escape his living hell and persue his ambitions of becoming the greatest game maker in the galaxy. His mother reluctantly puts him forth for education under the tutelage of the dastardly Don Mossimo, director of the Technopriest school where video game makers learn their trade. He is a fat moustachioed moron with a short temper fuse.
Albino is shocked by the rigid and oppressive system, but due to his tenacity immediately succeeds in Virtual Reality training and proves that intellectual power is superior to physical strength. Thanks to Albino’s unique mind powers and a passion for what he does, his mentors and peers quickly realise he’s not only unique, but a genius. However, his resilience is tested on many occasions and he finds himself grappling with his emotions and the moral injustices imposed by the Techno heirarchy on game makers and game players, and one which he deems excessive.
The turning point happens when he encounters the Fifty Morons (probably the funniest title in the galaxy!); fifty game players who are basically human guinea pigs whose minds are used to alter and improve the virtual games.
With his cunning wit and with the help of Tinigrifi, he manages to locate the sleeping virtual spirit of Supreme Technopriest, Saint Sovoro De Loyola. He soon takes on the mantle of mentor, sort of like the Obi Wan Kenobi to Albino’s young Luke Skywalker!
Besides exploring Albino’s search for acceptance and belonging, The Technopriests also explores Panepha’s search for justice against the pirates who raped her. She is on a personal mission to castrate them all and acquires a ship in order to fulfil her mission. However, she soon learns that certain vendettas can come at a high price indeed.
She is tricked and captured by Ulritch the Red (one of the pirates who raped her) and finds herself his unwilling concubine; used and abused at his whim. While Onyx learns that Ulritch is her father and is elevated to a higher status.
Poor Almagro however, in a cruel twist of fate find himself cleaning puke and Onyx has no sympathy for her brother’s plight whatsoever, which is only to be expected!
However, through some scheming on the part of Gorth (Ulritch’s right hand man), a former accomplice Thark the Gray overthrows the red tyrant.
It seems his time in prison has reformed him, and he is set on winning the love of Panepha, who despises him, as does her son Almagro even though Thark is his father.
However, she eventually gives in and feels that she finally has a chance at happiness, of course, this being the Jodoverse things can change at any given moment! In another cruel twist of fate, they find themselves stranded on a female dominated planet and are taken prisoner. The childish Almagro is crowned a queen/king due to his likeness to their divine goddess-god! I mean, what can go wrong now?
The inner turmoil of each character plays a central role in The Technopriests. Jodorowsky again delves into themes around transformation, outwardly as well an inwardly, and is never one to shy away from twisting the proverbial knife into each character. He is like a cosmic joker who glees on pulling the rug from beneath our feet, questioning our own expectations and ideals.
As for the artwork, The Technopriests is a visually delightful piece of work thanks to Serbian artist Zoran Janjetov, and the stunning bold colours of Fred Beltram (Megalex). The result is absolutely gorgeous and eye-catching, everything from the characters, the ships, the alien creatures and worlds, it is a visual feast. Jodorwosky has had the fortune of working with great artists over the years, and Zoran Janjetov definitely joins that list.
Technopriests is a richly rewarding experience for lovers of ‘high science-fiction’. It is just as enthralling as The Metabarons, but perhaps more spiritual in nature. It a story that will linger with you for a long time.
Published by Humanoids Story by Alejandro Jodorowsky Written by Jerry Frissen Artwork by Niko Henrichon
In Book 2, we are introduced to Orne-8, a student of the Techno-Cardinal, who is willing to go to extreme measures to be promoted by the Techno-Pope.
He (or rather, she, as we soon discover) is tasked with a mission by the Techno-Pope to seek out an alternative to the much sought after oil/fuel Epyphite, the lack of which may be causing disastrous effects in their universe, as whole worlds are scorched by solar storms.
Travelling along with Orne-8 is a ‘transhuman’ called Simak, who is like an artificial-bio being with the ability to morph his body into any shape he desires. The dynamic between both characters is really interesting to see, especially their growing animosity towards each other.
In the mean time, the Metabaron seems to be oblivious to the impending destruction of the universe, and does a Superman II, ie, foregoes his metabaronic powers in order to feel more human. He is haunted by the prophecy that the universe will soon come to an end, and decides to indulge in his desires.
His trusted robot servant Tonto is tasked with finding women from Solar Corona; a planet filled with beautiful prostitutes to take back to his master. However, as Orne-8 enters the fray, everything changes.
The Metabaron returns to the planet of his ancestors, Marmola. He is convinced that the sacred oil Epyphite, is trying to tell him something (after recieving a telepathic message in Book 1). But this being the Jodoverse, nothing is as plain sailing as it may seem! There are plenty more twists and turns in store.
Jodorowsky’s ability to create fascinating characters is one of his biggest strengths, and Orne-8 fits that template like a figure in a cosmic jigsaw.
She is a key player in the Metabaron’s journey now and it will be interesting to see where the story takes her.
Niko Henrichon (Pride of Baghbad) takes over art duties in this book, and he does a marvellous job indeed! His style is very eye-catching and engrossing, with gorgeous colours and incredible depth in detail, adding weight to the spaceships, planets and its denizens. There is almost a Moebius level of complexity, and that is probably the highest praise I can give him.
The opening panels in particular, are beautifully rendered, showing what is essentially a flashback scene involving Othon’s accident on Malmora, and a moment which is an intergral part of the story
Another is the scene of all the prostitutes in the Metabarons’s private quarters. Each is very unique in their design, and the jewellery, tatoos and accessories give them each, almost their own set of personalities.
Book 2 is another triumph by Jodorowsky and his team, and I cannot wait to read the next chapter in this enthralling, fascinating series.
Published by Humanoids Story by Alejandro Jodorowsky Written by Jerry Frissen Artwork by Valentin Sécher
The Metabarons (which preceded this book) was a sprawling space opera with its own fascinating mythology. The series first appeared in 1981 and continued all the way through 2003 and was a masterpiece in the making. I mentioned in my previous review that it was just as good, if not better (story wise) than The Incal, and I still stand by it. It was Jodorowsky’s very own Sistine Chapel. I cannot lavish enough superlatives upon it and recommend it wholeheartedly. What then, did I make of The Metabaron: Jodorowsky’s more recent addition to the Jodoverse?
Well it was fucking brilliant.
I was immediately drawn in by the story (co-written by Jerry Frissen ) and Valentin Sécher’s incredibly vivid and realistic art: his images just pop out the pages, honestly speaking, there are panels which will sear themselves on your brain.
Panels like these ones, where we see a brooding Metabaron contemplating about his destiny, and his part in the bigger scheme of things. The framing is excellent as we build up to the Metabaron’s eyes.
And like this one here, the Techno-Vatican where the evil fat Techno-Pope resides.
Tonto, the Matabaron’s trusted robot servant narrates the story (much like in The Metabarons series). The precious oil Epiphyte is at the heart of the story, as greed and power-lust from the Techno-Techno’s have almost drained all its reserves from Marmola, the marble world in which it is native.
The Metabaron once single-handedly brought the dastardly Techno-Techno Empire to its knees, but is seeking a new direction in his life, one which doesn’t include killing. However, in the chaos that ensued after his war against the Empire, a new regime was formed within the Techno-Techno civilization. Their powers were increased by seizing control of the precious Epiphyte, which is used as anti-gravity fuel for their ships.
The Techno-Pope soon learns that the Metabaron is back and headed towards Marmola, and dispatches a psychopathic Techno-Admiral, Wilhelm-100. He is a walking monstrosity with huge metal arms which puts Wreck-it-Ralph in the shade.
He has a passing resemblance to Mickey Rourke, and his cruelness knows no bounds. He is also one of the most imposing adversaries the Metabaron has faced, due to his volatile nature and penchant for blood and rape.
He has a servant, a devious, scheming dwarf aptly named Tetanus (as he’s continuously injecting his master with with Epiphyte). He has grand designs of his own.
He devises a plan to defeat the Metabaron by making a clone of his foe, using blood from the blade of Steelhead (the Metabaron’s grandfather).
And soon, the anti-Baron is born: a clone which is almost identical to our hero. He is put through gruelling tests to increase his mental and physical strength and emerges a formidable opponent.
Has the Metabaron finally met his match? And don’t forget Meta-Rourke who also wants a piece of the action.
This book is nearly as insane as The Metabarons, and every bit as enjoyable. There are some great character compositions, and the strength of the book is how the writers draw you into each of these characters no matter how despicable some of them are. They are well written, and time is given to each character accordingly, this in turn makes for a thoroughly engaging read.
If you’re a fan of The Incal, or The Metabarons, this is one book you cannot miss.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every once in a while a comic comes along that gets me excited like riding an express elevator to hell (goin’ down!), and Aliens: Dead Orbit is one such comic!
After an accident on board a space station, engineering officer Wascylewski finds himself alone. Well, not quite alone, as the deadliest creatures in the known galaxy are also hitching along for a ride. And now, he must use his wits to see off the hissing horrors.
When I heard James Stokoe would be tackling the Alien comics, I was filled with unbridled joy; his work on Godzilla for IDW was marvellous, as was his input in Image‘s Prophet series.
Through his art, the feeling of foreboding and claustrophia deepens, and through flashbacks we start to learn how Wascylewski found himself in this scary position.
I just love Stokoe’s style; there is so much stuff happening in his panels, he is like the modern day equivalent of Masamune Shirow. The sheer amount of detail in his panels are insane.
The tension is ramped up slowly and expertly as the first sighting of the xenomorph is established. And like Wascylewski, we too feel the dread thanks to Stokoe’s beautifully rendered artwork.
Dark Horse‘s Aliens universe is truly marvellous with some great stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading over the years (Nightmare Asylum, Salvation being some of the best ones) and Dead Orbit is another strong entry in the ongoing Alien-verse. I can assure you this is one series you would not want to miss.
Megalex was published by Humanoids, collecting all three volumes of the Megalex arc by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Fred Beltran. This review is for all three volumes, and if you’re a fan of Jodorowsky like I am, or stunning sci-fi artwork, then boy are you in for a treat!
European and Asian science fiction storytelling tends to resonate with me more strongly, than say American ones, purely for the fact that some of the ideas expressed through writers and artists such as Jodorowsky, Otomo, Moebius, Enki Bilal et al, are more daring and appealing to me. Sometimes they blur the line between reality and fantasy and operate on a higher plane of existence. Slowly over the years I found myself falling out of love with American superhero comics, and more in love with these master storytellers from different parts of the world.
And Megalex is a comic which encompasses everything I love in my comics; it’s twisted, sexy, mind-boggling, funny, topical and bat shit insane!
The story is set in the city planet Megalex, a technological power which is ruled with an iron fist by the ruling elite; the royal family composed of undead King Yod, Queen Marea, and the beautiful Princess Kavatah. Only two parts of the world escape their authority; the haunted forest and the deadly sea.
Megalex is filled with giant clones and drugged up workers. After 400 days of service, these clones are disposed of and new ones are born via a mechanical apparatus which resembles a vagina. Of course this is apt in terms of symbology, but the clones prior to their death, become aware of their impending doom and start a riot.
Amidst the hysteria, a new clone emerges who is referred to as the ”Anomaly” and later named Ram.
He has genetic shortcomings and this abnormality creates in him the desire to break his chains and escape Megalex. On board a craft, an A.I being called “Shalise” spots him, and he flees the ship with his life.
He is helped by Adama, a beautiful buxom woman from the labyrinth in the underbelly of Megalex, which was created “before the Anti-gravity era.”
Ram starts developing a crush on Adama (quite frankly, what hot blood male wouldn’t!) which she brushes off (at first).
They hitch a ride on an hippordile; an enormous, intelligent crocodile creature with the ability to speak (probably a relative of Sensitive Klegg from JudgeDredd‘s world!). They go deep into the bowels of the labyrinth and meet some tribal chiefs.
Meanwhile on Megalex, food parcels or “manna” are dropped from the military ships, and the residents are able to transform the gloop into any manner of food they desire.
But rebels from the labyrinth plot an attack on one of the military complexes, which in turn enrages King Odd and Queen Marea. Soon all hell breaks loose and our heroes Adama and Ram find themselves in the thick of it, with Princess Kavatha playing a key part in the story as well as a hunchback named Zerain who sprouts wings and declares war on Megalex.
The theme of nature versus machine features strongly in the story, as does love and transformation of characters. The fact that Jodorowsky delves deeper into these themes is one of the strong points of the story amidst the more crazy stuff, and believe me, Megalex is crazy with a capital C!
Fred Beltran’s artwork is so fucking good, at times it left me speechless. The first two books are computer generated and the fact that the first book was released in 1999, makes it even more impressive. It actually complements the story perfectly, with the artificial clean features of the city and the clone characters which all add up to a very eye-popping experience.
The third book is rendered in a more traditional hand drawn style. It is a slight disappointment in terms of the overall style of the story, but showcases Beltran’s versatile prowess as an exceptional artist.
Megalex is a world full of rich visualisation, and insane ideas. Fans of Jodorowsky will want to check it out as will fans of science fiction storytelling in general. If nothing else, then Beltran’s stunning artwork which is an absolute joy to observe.
I will say this right off the bat, Planetoid is a great fucking mini-series!
There was a boom of science fiction stories in mainstream comics after the success of Image Comics‘s Saga and Prophet series, and it was difficult to find a story which could hold my attention. Luckily, I discovered this gem of a series by Ken Garing and was immediately drawn in by his strong storytelling, not to mention awesome freaking artwork.
Silas, an ex-soldier turned space pirate, crash lands on a strange planet in hostile alien territory. It is a long-abandoned industrial world filled with towering twisted metal and steel; derelict and foreboding with no sign of intelligent life at first. With the aid of Ricter; his interactive analytic assistant, he explores his new surroundings.
Pretty soon he encounters a mechanical monstrosity rising up from the waters. Suffering blood loss he is rescued by an old man called Mendel, from whom he learns more about the planet.
The planet has a strong electromagnetic pull and seems to attract anything that is close to it, which explains his crash. He also learn that there is a settlement of humans and aliens on a place called ‘the slab’, but all is not plain sailing as the planet is inhabited by a cyborg militia called ‘the Rovers’, who are controlled by a tyrannical alien goverment called the Ono Mao.
Silas soon sets off for the human encampment, but encounters a red haired woman called Onica, who views him with suspicion.
However, after saving a tribe of humans from the Rovers, he finds himself becoming the reluctant leader of the group.
There are various factions within the settlement which he has to unite, and soon, thanks to his leadership he pioneers a semblance of order, through security and food.
Speaking of food, just check out of these amazing panels of reptilian egg and worm omelette being prepared; it’s mouth-watering to say the least!
A strong bond develops between Silas and Onica (which eventually results in a bit of frisky coitus!), and other members of the group especially the hermit like Nkuda and his trusted lizard sidekick, Koma.
However, peace is short lived as General Boa, the leader of the Ono Mao wants to eliminate or assimilate them all. His anger probably stems from the fact that his face resembles a giant turd!
Silas is captured by the irritable General after being ambushed by a mechanical fiend who pummels his friends to bits.
I mean, just check out this bloody panel right here. Violence never looked so beautiful!
General Boa however, may have underestimated this rag tag team of humans and aliens, and especially Silas, as a revolution starts brewing on the planet.
Ken Garing’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous, the junk steel and metal filled landscape of the planet; metal never looked so sexy like this before! It reminded me of Aliens and Alien 3 in particular and the prison planet of Fiorina 161.
His characters are also memorable and well written, key being Onica and Silas not to mention Nkuda and his lizard friend. I also took a liking for the old man Mendel who reminded me of a mystical type figure, aiding our protagonist in key junctures of the story.
This trade collects issue 1 to 5 of the mini-series, however, there is a 6 issue sequel called Praxis which is currently ongoing. That too, is shaping up pretty nicely and I will review it at a later date.
As for this collection, it is a must read for all science fiction fans, especially those who have a love of European comics, as Planetoid could quite easily nestle inside the pages of 2000AD (albeit with the swearing toned down!) and Heavy Metal (in all its glory).
In this final volume of Moebius’ collected works, we follow the story of Stel from the Aedena arc, and we get to witness the most majestic of Moebius’s visuals.
We open with a chase; Stel fleeing from a strange monster which looks like a cross between a dinosaur and a parrot. He is still on the quest to find his partner Atana, who we last saw in Book 7 (The Goddess).
After finding refuge in a rocky crevice, he sets out at night and bumps into Master Burg, the enigmatic celestial being whom he first encountered in The Gardens of Aedena (Book 5).
He learns that the dinosaur-parrot monster is actually a manifestation of the Paternum, the psychic being whom Atana seemingly defeated previously. His powers have diminished, but not completely. Stel wants to learn about the whereabouts of Atana but Master Burg cannot help him.
The only clue he gains is a message from an Aedelf; an elemental fairy who warns him that Atana is in grave danger.
The next day Stel is again chased by the Paternum monster but is saved by some Nesters whose shuttle has broken down.
Stel is hopeful that through the Nesters, he can locate Atana. He sets about fixing their shuttle, and they are soon ready to set off.
However, their leader has a psychotic episode, and the Paternum (who’s changed into a lizard) latches on to him, controlling him like a puppet.
Stel is taken prisoner by the Paternum and transported to another Nest; one which has not fallen to rebellion. It is here that he slowly uncovers the terrible truth about Aedena, and the creation of the Nest.
This book is a joy to delve into, even including the frustrating ending, and has some of the best artwork by Moebius in the whole Aedena arc. He seems particularly drawn to the desert, presenting it as a place full of possibilities, and by God, the culmination of his ideas are simply sublime to behold!
He concocts wondrous landscapes which transport you to the world he envisions. In a strange way he is like the personification of his own creation; a Master Burg or Major Gulbert who create worlds derived from our own dreamscapes.
The ending is open, and a strange feeling of sadness pervades it. The feeling of being so close and yet so far. In hindsight, it is a masterful stroke by Moebius, the story is open to our own interpretations.
Mississipi River was was originally serialised in Metal Hurlant in 1979.
During that year, Moebius and Jean-Michel Charlier found themselves embroiled in an argument over Blueberry (the western strip which preceded Mississippi River), with French publisher Dargaud.
As a result, the two creators decided to halt their work on Blueberry and create a new series. This was how Mississippi River was born.
We open with a fight on a boat cruising along the Mississippi river, and are formally introduced to our anti-hero; former Union soldier Jim Cutlass. Trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes, especially amongst the Southerners who view him with suspicion.
He acquaints himself with a slave owner called Don Clay (who has a passing resemblance to Charles Bronson), but things start going down south (literally!).
We also meet other characters, key one being Carolyn whom Jim has a romantic affiliation with. She has a clear disdain for the Union soldiers (and with good reason), which of course makes things awkward for Jim due to his Unionist roots.
More trouble soon follows suit after he inherits part of a Louisiana plantation.
Cutlass as a character, does not cover himself in glory throughout the story. Compared to Blueberry, he is much less heroic, although he makes up for it with his cunning resourcefulness. His plans backfire a lot of the time, and it seems only blind luck is keeping him alive.
His flaws are not only limited to himself, but other characters too; betrayal and self interest is the order of the day.
Moebius’ representation of a sun-drenched Louisiana is very striking and colourful, as are the deep blue colours of night. It is a direct contrast to the grim nature of the story. In terms of the writing, it is not as strong as Blueberry, but does have its moments.
After Charlier’s untimely death in 1989, Moebius revived the character for six 90s sequels with himself as writer and Christian Rossi as artist
Mississipi River may not be one of Moebius’ most memorable works, nonetheless, it is a must read for all enthusiasts of the French maestro.