THE METABARONS ULTIMATE COLLECTION is a massive slab of gorgeous science-fiction genius. At 544 spectacularly vibrant pages, this volume collects the far-future, multigenerational saga of the Metabaron clan which that mad genius Alejandro Jodorowsky penned as a sidetrack to his magnum opus, THE INCAL.
It’s pointless to try and describe the convoluted scenario here. Published by Humanoids, METABARONS is action-packed, but a philosophically inclined, Zen-like story of madness and beauty. It has robots, spaceships and ray guns. It’s hilarious and moving.
Structured differently from THE INCAL, METABARONS is game of incredible one-upmanship Jodo is playing with himself. Generation after generation, he stacks the odds for this house of tarot cards by sticking bowling balls amidst the layers. Yet somehow, juggling the pile with his mind’s eye — he is a true genius — it never even shows signs of falling.
With each generation, the plot gets more twisty and twisted, the scale of the proceedings growing exponentially, and yet, Jodorowsky manages to tie things up in a neat, four-dimensional bow.
The mind boggles.
The art is not by Moebius this time around, but by Argentine’s Juan Giménez, who brings a splashy realistic approach to these imaginary wonders. Personally, I’m in the Moebius camp, enjoying the more cartoony approach to comics, but Giménez’s work is hard to fault in any way. It’s probably more easily approachable to most comics readers today. But I can’t imagine the time it took for him to create these detailed visionary vistas, page after page, yet overpopulate them with believable characters who constantly project intense emotion.
The mind continues to boggle.
Having said that, I still personally prefer THE INCAL and recommend it as the primary entry point to this saga. But you’d be a fool not to go for this one immediately afterward.
Which brings us to the latest adventures from the Spatio-Temporal agents Valerian and Laureline. Smaller in scale and madness than METABARONS, WELCOME TO ALFLOLOL is yet equally wonderful.
This follow-up to THE LAND WITHOUT STARS clocks in at the standard 48 pages, yet this cartoony blend of visionary science-fiction concepts and subtly sophisticated situations and characters is consistently intelligent and delightfully entertaining.
The storyline has our heroes exit a planet ruled by Galaxity, only to find the true inhabitants returning from a 4,000-year vacation to a newly occupied and eviscerated planet. In their attempt to allow both to cohabit the planet peacefully, Valerian and Laureline end up fighting their own vast bureaucracy run by engineers and accountants, which quickly relegates these indigenous people to at first reservations and soon after to labor camps.
All of this is, of course, done in lurid color and with a sense of good fun that allows these to be kid-friendly, but the subtext underneath is clear.
Cinebook Ltd.’s WELCOME TO ALFOLOL is, as before, spectacularly visualized from the pen of Jean-Claude Mézières. His casual artistry continues to amaze with its seemingly effortless precision. But what truly makes this episode stand out is the increasing amount of sharp offhand observation of character and genre as imagined by writer Pierre Christin.
The situations make play of convention. Laureline may be carried away by a monster (“Even space critters are misogynous!”), but instead of having the dashing Valerian save her, the angry red tentacle creature is defeated by a silly space-possum. In fact, Valerian, who follows orders of the increasingly fascistic Galaxity bureaucracy, gets dragged deep into moral quicksand by doing so.
Laureline keeps her head and heart in balance and time after time proves to be the true hero of the series. Yet, not to be quick to judge, their respective talents are superbly suited for working together, and their relationship and interaction is what grounds this series so wonderfully.
WELCOME TO ALFLOLOL is, so far, the best of this fantastically rousing adventure with wonderful monsters and copious amounts of widescreen action. As a singular story, this is a smart and subversive delight, but as a continuation of what has gone before, this is that spatio-temporal point where Valerian and Laureline turns into one of the truly great science-fiction comic books.
Balancing the exuberant scientifictional bombast of the first two titles, THROUGH THE WALLS is touching, but never sappy. It’s a subtle set of stories about characters who shift through the fabric of the universe (or their apartment walls) in their daily lives.
Written with acutely observed characters by Jean-Luc Cornette, and illustrated with a gentle touch by Stéphane Oiry, this is another wonderful release from Humanoids. The characters are varied, but undeniably real in their mostly urban settings.
Whether illustrating a group of young adults in romantic endeavors, or children playing chicken in front of a freight train, all of the stories are — despite the unusual idea at the core of the book — real. And that everyday realism grounds the fantastic in a way that makes it believable. Highly recommended. —JT Lindroos