Continuing the sprawling, decades long dynastic epic of The Metabarons, that first saw light of day in 1981’s The Incal, – one part Dune and one part Metal Hurlant – Humanoids releases the second volume in the current cycle, The Metabaron 2: The Techno-Cardinal and the Transhuman, this Wednesday. We’ve already previewed it right here at Bleeding Cool, but what’s the actual book like?
Well, if you were intimidated by my first, rather complex sentence and the thought of having to trawl through a book with years of backstory and any number of characters you might not know, then fear not. The Metabaron 2, while another chapter in a continuing space-opera, is an easy read, with the Metabarons’ family history being aptly summarise in but a few pages, leaving the majority of this hefty tome to tell a new story; a story of a universe on the brink of extinction, thanks to the double trouble of both vastly depleted Epyphite (the fuel that the universe of The Metabarons’ is so dependent on to run) and the collision of galaxies that seems to scream out across the skies the beginning of the end for all life. Set against this apocalyptic backdrop is the ongoing battle between the didactic, autocratic Techno-Pope and the ultimate warrior, The Metabaron. While the former uses the current state of emergency to clamp down on the populace and invoke a police state, The Metabaron would rather see the end of the universe out through embracing the sins of the flesh, so to speak, and both literally and figuratively, go out with a bang!
On The Metabaron’s tail is Orne-8, a wiley student of the Techno-Cardinal, who is willing to go to any measures to be promoted, so it would seem. And, as a newly appointed Techno-Cardinal, it is Oren-8’s mission to seek out an alternative to Epyphite, along with the transhuman (think fleshy cyborg, akin to the synths of the Alien movies, but far more pliable, like Plastic Man), Simak. Needles to say, as in the traditions of all good road movies, this ‘road trip’ through space gives us a pair not at ease with one another. Simak, while a subservient to Orne-8, isn’t afraid to make his feelings felt, even if they are easily ignored by his master, the Techno-Cardinal. But, instead of hilarity ensuing, there is a growing animosity between the two.
There are several interesting twists and turns to this story, but to reveal anymore of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s plot would detract from the enjoyment of reading it for yourselves, and taking in the sumptuous art by Niko Henrichon, a mixture of light, deft pencil lines and digital painting, that adds a sketched quality to the myriad of characters we meet in this well-realised, worn-in universe familiar to all Metabarons’ fans, while adding weight, depth and dimension to the many different vehicles, spaceships and vast technology that inhabit this universe. Each page is a delight, and it is a universe you quickly find yourself engrossed in. Henrichon certainly knows how to pack it all in and breathe life into each page.
And while this is most definitely a product of European comic book traditions, if you know what I mean, there are bigger themes being explored which do reflect – as all good sci-fi can do – the fears and preoccupations of our own world. A zealous religion run through corruption and exploitation of the masses, the irony being that in this all encompassing universal religion, it is technology they put their faith in and not the spiritual; which is left to the decadent Metabaron to explore and discover. Using war as a diversion – in this case to divert the masses from the realisation that a growing fuel shortage could spell the end of everything – is a concept many of us can recognise as a theoretical possibility that may, or may not (depending on your own viewpoints and paranoia, I suppose) have been used by governments of our own world in the past and, who knows, in the future too. Oh, and it would seem an unhealthy dose of sexism still exists in this futuristic world too. You’ll see what I mean if you buy the book.
In all of this mess, there is still room for love and where one finds love, one also finds copulation. I told you this was a very European book, didn’t I? But, there is also room for hope, for optimism too. For a brighter future and not, necessarily, the end of days as it plays out across this satisfyingly bulky book. It is, then, an album that acts as a good jump on point for anyone new to the world of the Metabarons, while forwarding the story of the current Metabaron, against a corrupt, dying universe. And, while it is technology that chokes this reality, there is the infusion of a certain kind of sci-fi hokus pokus that offers hope. But, that is a story for another volume, and another day.
Overall then, it’s an 8 out of 10 book from me, and out this Wednesday.
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