A long time ago I posted about my adventures reading Jodowrosky and Moebius' The Incal, the expansive space opera revolving about the calamitous life of John DiFool. Or rather a Galactic adventure in which he is accidentally involved. He spends the story being grumpy, selfish, cowardly and argumentative. He's a right pain.
One of the other characters featured in the Incal handle's the twists and turns with far more aplomb. He is the Metabaron. The universes ultimate warrior. The Metabarons takes this one man army and discovers the reason for him being such a mutherfucker (at least one of his ancestors was one quite lierally). To do this the book explores the current Metabarons ancestors and we discover a whole host of very clearly messed up forebears.
The book works it's way through each of the Metabarons lives, explaining how they were trained by their father, the obstacles they over came, the loves they discovered, the way they killed their own fathers in ritual combat (yep, that's how you become the metabaron!). The overriding image of the family line is that they are deeply unlucky. Tragedy and misfortune follows them as each attempts to juggle their power as the champions of the Galactic empire, the ultimate killing machine and deeply flawed human beings who love as hard as they fight.
Each of the Metabaron's struggle to carry on their family line through horrific misfortune. Everything you can imagine is thrown in their path but they use their magnificent wealth and massive scientific power to overcome them. One of the most basic actions a being can carry out, to reproduce, appears to be near impossible for the Metabarons and only their titanic wills and refusal to be defeated allows them to carry on.
The creative process supposedly saw Jodowrowsky and Juan Gimenez challenging each other and pushing each other to come up more outrageous characters and outlandish situations. From characters without heads to huge fleas acting as spaceships. Gimenez art is far more plush than Moebius (who worked on the Incal) and his complex and stunning layouts use watercolors and magnificent scope to give the book a deep and complex look that just draws you into each page. The armour, weapons, spacecraft and creatures are crammed with detail, filling the universe to the brim with stuff that you simply ache to know more about.
The cast of characters that make up the stories is extensive but the story is constructed in a way that focuses on the family tragedy while still keeping the ebb and flow of galactic events in frame to give the life of the Metabarons a meaning beyond their own concerns. They are the undefeatable defenders of the human galaxy and as such are called upon the combat pirates, aliens, invasions, coups, rebellions, kidnappings, homicidal nuns and techno-popes.
One of the most startling parts of the whole story is the constant referral to complex and invasive surgery. Each of the Metabarons have cybernetic parts, whether through choice or through the result of the trials of there youth. When they come of age they have their bodies filled with enough explosive to destroy a galaxy and use this as a failsafe against the treachery of their own race. This loneliness and inability to trust anyone is the destiny of each of the Metabarons and is a key feature of their lives. The imagery of blood and opened flesh occurs again and again, the bodies of the patients almost blending with the machines operating on them.
The use of language throughout the book had me perplexed to begin with. I assumed, because the comics were originally French, that this was due to the translation. However I had a chat with Asslessman about it and it opened my eyes. The language is overly bombastic and at time hysterically theatrical. It uses repeated motif's and overly pretentious statements to inflate the ridiculousness of the situation and through this bursts the bubble of the story's own seriousness. Of course it's ridiculous that one of the characters survives having his head being shot off as a baby because his father found out that his own mother had possessed the near dead body of his new bride! It's operatic, Wagnerian and so should be, it's a Space Opera after all.
It's a testament to the art of Gimenez that the over-arching comedy of the story only adds to the spectacle rather than subtracts from it.
As my second foray into the Jodoverse I feel hugely gratified that Humanoids (the publishers) put together this edition of the Metabarons. At a pretty reasonable price you get a big chunk of a book filled to the brim with as much space opera craziness as it's possible to handle. If you like comics, if you like sci-fi, do yourself a favour and get a hold of this book. You will not regret it.