A fun little sampler that does it’s job: offers a sense of several offerings within the massive science-fiction universe created by noted filmmaker and all-around singular artist Alexandro Jodorowsky.
For those who might not know, once upon a time in the 1970s, Jodorowsky was within a hair’s breadth of making a full-blown, bananas (and possibly brilliant) film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction novel Dune (the tale of the film’s near-fruition is brilliantly told in the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune). The film didn’t quite get off the ground, but Jodorowsky’s hyperactive mind had already constructed a vast universe of planets, civilizations, and cultures around Herbert’s original story. Instead of letting those worlds simply die the same death as his Dune movie, Jodorowsky decided to start setting them down in the form of comic book/graphic novel scripts which would be illustrated by various artists. Many of them did not hit the presses until decades after Dune failed to get past the pre-production phase, but fortunately for fans, many of them have seen the light of day. Four 20-some-odd page excerpts of “Jodo’s” worlds are offered as follows:
This universe follows human character DiFool, who finds himself about to be sacrificed by the evil Technopriests to some horrendous sort of diety. His companion, a sort of wise-cracking pelican made of solid concrete, manages to save DiFool in a rather “out of the frying pan” type of way that leaves one hanging just as any good excerpt should do. In this small snippet, we get a sense of the combination of religion, politics, and conformity which are often the subjects of Jodorowsky’s movies and other stories. We also are treated to the crisp, highly influential artwork of French graphic arts legend Moebius, whose style has been strongly emulated ever since the 1970s.
Probably the most striking and interesting of the four excerpts for me. This story follows a group of miners on a distant planet who are in sole control of a mineral that allows the defiance of gravity. They also use this mineral to easily carve and export a type of marble which is highly prized throughout the universe. Many elements of Frank Herbert’s Dune series are obvious in The Metabarons, making for some curious plot elements. Most dazzling to me, however, is the artwork by Juan Gimenez. Gimenez’s highly detailed pencil and ink work can best be described as a wonderfully “heavy” type of baroque graphic comic art. The colors, which I believe are either watercolor or pencil, are fabulous in a way that suits the fantastic subject matter perfectly. Of the three samples in this volume which I haven’t read, this is easily the one that I am most likely to track down and dive into.
This one offers a view of the tortured and odd background story of one of the titular Technopriests, a group of select few who have immense powers derived from their mastery of not only technology but their mental faculties. Their skills give them the ability to manipulate time and space in ways that make them virtually indomitable. This part of the tale is the beginning portion of an origin story of just one of these dimensional masters. It is fairly interesting, though not particularly creative in terms of the specific narrative elements. The artwork is nothing particularly special, featuring clean, adequate linework but very little in the way or background to offer depth or texture. Though a bit intriguing, The Technopriests was the one of the four excerpts that I found least compelling.
I actually read the entire Megalex series before I had read this group of excerpts, and my review will be coming quite soon. In short, this piece of the tale covers the very beginning, which has the feel of Huxley’s Brave New World set in a far vaster future in which a planet is run by a tiny group of seemingly-immortal cyborgs. These cyborgs control nearly everything on the planet, right down to exactly how long its citizens live, keeping the populace placated through opioids and violent forms of techno-entertainment. However, the stranglehold on the planet begins to loosen as an underground revolutionary movement musters its forces in the few areas of the planet safe from the cyborg overlords. The art here is done digitally, which is not a form I enjoy due to its glossy artificiality.
From this set of previews, several of Jodorowsky’s themes, strengths, and weaknesses are fairly clear. The man had some really fun sci-fi ideas and built some curious worlds around them. The clear weaknesses are how many of the characters can lack depth and the dialogue is at times downright terrible. That said, the world-building is impressive. This, coupled with some outstanding art in The Incal and The Metabarons, makes this a perfect volume for gauging one’s interest in any of the prolific Jodorowsky’s work in the medium of graphic storytelling.