Dynamite has sent us a new writer’s commentary from Mike Carey on Barbarella #6. The issues has covers by Dave McCaig and Brent Schoonover with interiors by Kenan Yarar.
So here we are in the middle of our second arc. Barbarella and Vix, along with the mathematician Vossamin, have dived through what turns out to be a temporal portal created by an incredibly strong R.U.S.T. field. The repercussions of this decision will play out through the issue.
There’s sort of a picaresque quality to the storytelling in this issue. We’re taking Barbarella through a number of different space-time pockets, building to the reveal of their final destination and (in #7) what waits for them there. There’s a sense in which the stops along the way could have been anywhere at all, so we just had fun with it – while (hopefully) maintaining tension through the Glains’ ongoing pursuit.
So for starters Barbarella and her little team find themselves in a prehistoric marsh. I went through my dinosaur phase as a kid, like everyone does, and I always loved the picture of Carboniferous swamps with gigantic dragonflies circling and super-sized ferns towering over everything. So this is that. There’s no reason why Van Neuman’s world had to have a Carboniferous period, it just did.
We also see Vix becoming much more proactive here, and more versatile in the words she samples and repeats. She’s not just picking up the last thing that was said anymore.
That organic compound that Vossamin detects here… keep it in mind. It’s seeded throughout the issue and pays off in #8, but along the way it gives Barbarella something of a start – more of this later.
So we’re back with the Glains, for the first of several occasions through the issue as they follow and ultimately close in on Barbarella. There’s a new character introduced here – Sally-Anne Glain, Pulver’s dead and digitally copied wife. I didn’t really have this beat in mind when I had Pulver call his gun Sally-Anne in #5, but the idea appealed to me a lot and I decided to bring in Sally-Anne as an actual character. She seems to be standing by her man in an uncomplicated way here. Later we’ll get some more insights into that relationship – and she comes into her own next issue.
I doubt the reveal here will come as much of a surprise to readers. I wanted to keep Barbarella on the run and on the defensive in these new environments, and we’d already done megafauna in #4. So the threat here is exactly the opposite.
I feel sorry for the Jaggamin Bonespeaker. He came a long way just to die here – and to be a momentary mystery for Barbarella to solve. I like the way Kenan has drawn her trying to lift the sword, not because she thinks she can use it but because it’s something that would be hard to resist.
Those are some serious bugs, right? Probably the dragonflies were something special too, but we’ll never know…
Another jump, another world. So the question is who brought them all together here and why? Also, note the absence of a gate, which raises another question. Where do they go from here.
Page 10 is an interesting example of Kenan’s world-building. The description in the script read like this:
Wide. Barbarella looks around at this new place. Kenan, I don’t know if you’re a Dr Seuss fan, but he has some hallmark ways of drawing landscapes. All the mountains are incredibly tall and sheer, and often the trees are single, slender trunks, extremely tall, with clumps of feathery foliage right at the top. That’s the sort of landscape we’re seeing here. Barbarella and Vossamin are on the flank of a mountain, close to the summit, and there are other massive peaks all around. The trees are all single trunks, thinner than drainpipes, with no side branches and just a clump of blossom or foliage right at the top. And we can see that this ecosystem sustains much bigger creatures than the swamp did. Some of them are drifting in the sky overhead – massive, tentacled beasties whose bodies are like the gas bags of hot-air balloons.
You can see where Kenan has followed the script and where he’s added touches of his own. Incidentally, I love what Mohan has done to the color palette here.
When I described the Glain boys, Udi and Zenz, for Kenan back in #5, I forgot to specify their ages. I was imagining them as men in their mid-twenties, but Kenan drew these two kids in strange, oversized hats and boots – as though they’re trying to assert themselves as men through their headgear and footwear. It was a crazy image that I decided I liked a lot, so I let it stand. It takes some of the edge of menace away from the Glain posse that two of its members are of elementary school age, but that’s fine. In the long run they’re not going to be the real threat…
I really like the way this scene ends, with Barbarella and Vossamin building a shelter and snuggling down in it together. Initially this was going to include a sex scene, but when I got here I decided there was really no need for it. There’s a more innocent and charming intimacy in the way Kenan has drawn them lying down side by side – and in the way he’s used the shape of the panels to suggest them surrendering to sleep.
Having said that, it looks to me like they picked the wrong rock to use as a pillow.
Notice that Sally-Anne is starting to take charge, both in terms of dealing with threats and in making decisions about strategy.
She also slut-shames Barbarella. I mulled over that line a fair bit. Obviously Barbarella doesn’t give much of a damn what other people think about her sex life. Equally obvious, Sally-Anne has no facts to go on at all. It’s just a knee-jerk remark, and it says more about her parochial upbringing than it does about anything else. When she meets Barbarella, she’s got some re-appraising to do.
So now you know why I was so specific about the trees. I had this pole-vaulting scene in mind and I wanted to set it up in a way that didn’t seem forced.
Vossamin’s oaths are a little odd. I didn’t know whether I could get away with realistic swears and decided to make him sound quaint instead. He is an academic, after all. He probably learned to swear by going on an in-service training course.
And here we are at last. This – i.e., Times Square in the early 20th century – is the center of the maze. There’s no world-hopping in #7, there’s just Barbarella tracking down the entity that’s responsible for the R.U.S.T. field and deciding what to do about it. The Glains are part of that decision too, and so in a way is Seku, the dead boy who visited Barbarella at the start of #5 and set her on this road.
It all makes sense. Honest.