Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Incal, Volume 1: The Black Incal Review (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Moebius)

I put off reading this one after seeing a clip a while back from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movie The Holy Mountain where a screaming naked old geezer wearing cheetah breasts squirts milk into the face of a kneeling man (for your trauma/amusement, here’s that scene), thinking that his comics were gonna be equally inaccessible, utterly incomprehensible and way too fartschool-y. And I was wrong - or at least half wrong - when it came to the first Incal book! 

Set in a futuristic universe full of the usual talking aliens and flying cars, a lowly private investigator called John Difool stumbles across a mysterious glowing object - The Incal - not realising its immense power. But others do know and John must stay one step ahead from the various forces arrayed against him! 

Given Jodorowsky’s arthouse background, the story is surprisingly fast-paced, coherent and full of action: from the opening scene, John is thrown off a Judge Dredd-esque Mega-City One high rise and has to outrun cops and thugs with blasters, and aliens and whatnot are getting murked left and right! Coupled with Moebius’ striking art, the book looks and reads a lot like the excellent late ‘90s movie The Fifth Element - not surprising though given that Moebius was a storyboard artist on that film, along with other sci-fi classics like Alien and Tron. 

Everything people say about Moebius’ art is right. He’s got an incredible sense of perspective, a keen eye for action and great vision for strange new worlds. If the sci-fi visuals seem overly familiar it’s because he was one of the original architects for these kind of modern space stories. Also, unlike a lot of ‘80s comics, The Incal has aged really well and doesn’t look its 35+ years - it still looks very contemporary. 

(Total aside: I wonder if Grant Morrison is a Jodorowsky fan? Probably - they both write trippy, out-there comics - maybe Jodorowsky was an influence? It’s funny seeing the character of The Metabaron here because he looks exactly like Morrison does today! Maybe Morrison is a Jodorowsky creation come to life…? Alright, I’ll stop there - I’m just kidding but still I’d bet Morrison was heavily influenced by Jodorowsky.)

Besides The Metabaron, the various adversaries chasing John are kinda rushed being setup and I felt a bit overwhelmed at so many characters being thrown at me in one go. Also, the constant chasing - John being captured, escaping, reacting to one bizarre situation from the next, repeat - gets a bit tired after a while. 

Things get fairly convoluted once The Incal starts showing John its powers - dividing him up into quarters, each somehow sentient. It’s not really clear either why everyone wants The Incal given that all it seems to do is fuck with you, but then this is just the introductory book so I don’t expect everything to be explained right off the bat. For now it’s like the Infinity Stones in the Marvel movies: a powerful cosmic MacGuffin driving the plot. 

I didn’t love The Incal, Volume 1: The Black Incal but I didn’t dislike it like I thought I would. I might continue with the series, though I’m in no rush to. That said, if you’re after an intelligent and pretty decent, if abstract, space opera, The Incal might be for you.

1 comment:

  1. It is almost a guarantee that Grant Morrison was a fan. There wasn't a comic book reader in Europe during the late 70s and early 80s who wasn't reading Metal Hurlant, and Moebius along with his small stable of writer collaborators were at the head of that revolution, which then shortly made its way over to America. Thanks to influence of these blokes, the face of comic books changed entirely into something worth reading.

    With that said, the rest of the Incal isn't that great. Check out the short stories of Moebius instead.