Τρίτη, 8 Μαΐου 2012

What I think about stuff- The Metabarons Retrospective, part 1

Oh my God.
I absolutely LOVE the Metabarons.

And there you have it. That should have been the entirety of this review, but you’re not here for that of course. You’re not here to see me treat my fanboy reactions with dignity, or even watch me as I try to be objective about it. You’re here to watch me slobber all over it and by Jehovah, this is what I’m gonna do!

But first, a little bit of backstory:
Growing up a comic book geek was exceptionally hard in Greece back when I was little, mostly because we didn’t have any sort of comic book stores up until the late 90’s. The only place we could get our sequential art fix from were newsstands and kiosks and the kind of comics we could get our grubby little hands on were pieces of crap like these:

pictured: horse shit in comic book format

Truth be told, we’d oftentimes get lucky and find the one newsstand that hid a couple of translated Conan paperbacks and some translated X-men (or god forbid, Spiderman) issues, but that was it. But then, another problem would rear its ugly head. Try to spot what kind of problems could occur for a 12-year old possessing a comic book with this kind of cover, if found out by their parents:

Hint: the above picture contains two different kinds of mature theme

I won’t say it was easy. The work was hard and the payout sucked most of the time, but you know what? No matter how many times we were thwarted, we persevered. We grit our teeth and we said ‘screw you mom and dad, I like comics!’; we waited for a day of reckoning, but it never seemed to come. Sure, there came a weekly comic book magazine called 9 (Ennea to all you barbarians), but most of its stories were posted in serialized form and were French little piles of disappointment like this:
on your right, you’ll see a magnificently drawn pair of LIES

But we’d just sigh, say c’est la vie, and keep on going, like good little soldiers. After all, that was our lot in life. Until one day, little old 14-year-old me pops one of the magazines open and suddenly sees…

In my mind, that forcefield hummed like a thousand lightsabers waving in salute to the first notes of Blind Guardian’s Mirror, Mirror

One nerdgasm later, I could find myself wanting for more. And can you blame me? From the first page, Alejandro Jodorowsky promises an epic space opera with lasers, awesome battles and Gimenez delivers with breathtaking visuals, the style and grandeur of which I have yet to see reproduced outside of this series.
For those of you not in the know, the series’ writer, Alejandro Jodorowsky is a Chilean-French 70’s spiritual superhero, who made a lot of crappy movies and another awesome comic book series, called the Incal, to which I’ll go into detail later. Along with the Metabarons and Technopriests, these series formed what was dubbed the Jodoverse. A colorful, epic and expansive science fiction setting, which I would marry and have a litter of kids with, were it a woman.
Juan Antonio Giménez López, is the man responsible for the Metabarons’ fine artwork. Instead of wasting your time and my space (get it? Get it?) by talking about it, here’s a few samples:

If you want another reason to gawk at the screen like a star-struck fool, visit his page here

But enough with the gawking and the geeking. Let’s get into the story.
Like every good epic, the narrative is based on the in medias res method. Our story begins at some point very near the end of the Metabarons saga, inside the impregnable Meta-Bunker (yeah, Jodorowsky has a thing for prefixes). The tale is told to us via one robot narrator, Tonto and his audience (and abuse victim) Lothar.

Post-Singularity’s first dysfunctional couple.

Under the grasp of unspeakable boredom, Tonto gives in to his robotic companion’s pleas and decides to recite to him the tale of the great caste he has served for almost two hundred years. And what a tale that is.
First, the story of Othon von Salza,

or as I like to call him, Badass Zero.
a former pirate and son-in-law to Berard von Castaka, a marble sculptor and old-school martial arts master.
Berard von Castaka: choking himself to death with his mind before it was cool.

After a visit by a team of techno-priests, looking to order marble for the construction of a new palace for the Imperial Couple, they realize that the Castakas posses a mysterious element that generates an anti-gravity field. Once the news goes out, an immediate bid for the planet begins, which quickly degenerates, as the Black Endoguard decides to cut the middle men and take the planet for themselves.
Having both numerical and technological superiority to the Castakas, the Endoguard think that the fight’s over. After all, what’s a bunch of backwater hicks armed with medieval weapons going to do? Send in their son-in-law armed with a short sword, so he can kill them with his bare hands?

Short answer: yes.
I told you this would happen, Steve! I goddamn told you!

With the Endoguard defeated and his wife killed in the battle, Othon takes his only son to a private planet that he bought after the huge bid given to him by the Empire. He’s also given a cloned horse, the last surviving member of its species in the universe.
 There, he lives his solitary, miserable days with his son, who blames him for not allowing him to take place in the battle. In a twist befitting a Greek tragedy, pirates attack them with the intent of stealing the horse. Othon kills them all, but his son who slipped away without his father’s knowledge to join the fray, gets killed by his own hand. At the last minute, a dying pirate takes a shot, which maims Othon’s family treasures. Othon of course saves himself by using cybernetic implants, which sadly include no reproductive organs, since his scrotum was atomized.

When I was little, I thought it was the hole that made the speech bubble. Couldn’t sleep for a week.

Othon of course, lacking the sexual means to vent his frustration does what each of us possessing six gazzilion kublars and no dong would:
Pimp their spaceship and stuff their bodies with enough weapons to destroy a solar system.
Using his awesome new abilities, Othon faces off against a pirate armada destroying it single-handed and saves the abducted conjoined progeny of the Imperial Couple, making him the most feared and respected man in the universe.
His actions in the Empire’s service of course impress Couple, who in turn promise to give him a wife. Othon refuses, not having any genitals and all.

But let’s face facts: with a ship like that, who needs girls?

It’s at this point that the leitmotif of the saga is set. Each of the Metabarons has these traits: they are all maimed and have replaced their lost limbs with artificial counterparts. They all suffer a tragic past. And they all, without exception, have a shitty sex life, which produces one heir at a time, who makes the cycle anew. I think this is because Jodorowsky wants us to be at the same time amazed, as well as appalled by these warrior gods. To be perfectly honest, most of the Metabarons (Othon included) are more like invincible serial killers than heroes.
Othon’s story takes a radically different turn, when he meets Onorata, a Shabda-Oud sorceress (a cult of space witches aiming toward universal domination)

kinda like the Bene Gesserit, but with less sex and more Azathoth worship.
Othon’s part of the story ends with a magnificent bang and a very cool battle scene, where he and his wife bust out zero-g kung fu against her cultist brethren, but the story leaves you wanting for more. Even though Othon reappears later on, he is not the sort of character that leaves you a lasting impression. He’s just an angry as hell bastard with a wafer-thin personality. It’s clear that Jodorowsky used Othon merely as a narrative excuse, a means to kickstart this series and set the leitmotif. Nothing less, nothing more.
Othon’s tale ends with Onorata confessing that she’s pregnant to a boy, the one and only son of Othon von Salza, the next Metabaron; and in my opinion, the best of the lot for a number of reasons.
Next week, we take a look at the story of Aghnar, the greatest of the Metabarons:

Motherfucking Aghnar.

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