Rogan Gosh or Misadventures in Spirituality.
DISCLAIMER: This review concerns a fantasy comic book that is obscure as fuck and reads like an LSD trip in the middle of a lavish Indian five-course meal. Should anything cease to make sense while reading this, recite the Narayana Upanishad seven times and punch yourself in the face once before continuing.
This comic book is weird. And I don’t mean good weird, like the One by Rick Veitch, which was indeed weird, but made sense during the second read-through and was awesome.
And it’s not bad weird, like some comic book runs written by a bathsit-crazy Scottsman, which no one dares call out as a bunch of incomprehensible bullshit from fear of being called out as a doddering ape by every artsy-fartsy asshole comic book reader…
I swear to God I keep hearing Grant Morrison laugh at me every time I try to make heads or tails of this shit.
It’s sort of…in between weird. It’s not so good it will blow your poor old monkey brain, but it’s not so bad you’ll pretend to explain it to that pretty girl from across the poet’s café that you so desperately want to bang, talking in your rugged, calm voice and acting every bit the condescending bastard.
But first, a little bit of explanation: Rogan Gosh is the name of an Indian lamb dish, made out of mutton, yoghurt and a shitload of spices. It’s hotter than the Sun’s perihelion but the yoghurt takes the intense burning down a notch and lets you enjoy its flavor to the fullest.
It’s also a very common dish in the Indian cuisine. Why is that important? Because this is used later on in the comic book to present the idea that the protagonist, despite being akin to a god and the only being able to fight the Great Evil, should also keep his humble beginnings in mind at all times.
Hmm, that’s an interesting idea. I like how this comic deals with the whole business of the almighty hero and makes sure to whack him upside the head since the beginning, by giving him the name of a dish. I like how the character, despite his cosmic, deific nature is designed so as to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground and never forget his place.
I also love how his Greek counterpart would have probably been called Souvlaki, almighty Pillar of the Heavens.
Or maybe not, according to the very next panel.
If this seems confusing, then that’s because this is its exact purpose. The entire structure of Rogan Gosh is based on the post-modernist psychedelic style of storytelling, which is another way of saying that you can’t really be arsed with coming up with transitions or structuring a story based on a clearly defined narrative with a simple, obvious purpose and goal.
The story is all over the place, but Peter Milligan (whose other works are otherwise coherent and well-told) holds the reins tight in his rainbow-colored tentacle appendages and tries to steer this stroboscopic mess into running a straight line, with mixed results.
I’ll be honest with you here: when I first read a couple things about Rogan Gosh, I was excited, thinking that this was going to be some space opera comic book, heavily influenced by such stellar works as Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. What I got instead was an incomprehensible mess (featuring Rudyard Kipling) that both confused and irritated the hell out of me.
Let me make one thing clear: I’m a sucker for Hinduism. In my mind, it’s the most exotic and sophisticated religion I’ve had the joy of looking into so far. It has a varied and imaginative pantheon of gods, each with a unique function and is supported by a vast, colorful mythology. It’s also backed by a few millennia’s worth of earthly wisdom and is obviously much more complicated and deep than I could hope to describe in this review.
I understand that tackling the themes presented in Hinduism is a huge task and that it’s not one to be taken lightly, especially in comic books. I also understand that a lot of those themes can make for great stories (such as the idea that the entire world is just an illusion, or that life never truly ends). The problem arises when you try to USE ALL OF THEM
Seriously Peter Milligan, what the hell where you trying to pull here? Where you trying to outdo Grant Morisson in Incomprehensibility (the very thing which he was crowned Eternal Emperor of during the 90’s) or were you trying to bring across an unnecessarily convoluted message that could be summarized as: ‘None of us knows anything about anything really, also the world is crappy, so let’s try to get along best as we can’?
I’d have given up on this comic book, had it not been masterfully illustrated by Brendan McCarthy,
Who would have been considered a witch in the middle Ages, in an attempt to reason his artistic ability.
Who provided the glorious artwork that you see before you.
But I bet all of you bastards want to know what this comic book is about, don’t you? Well okay, I’ll tell you, based on what little sense I made while reading it:
Apparently Rudyard Kipling
You know, the awesome writer who thought happy endings in kids’ stories were optional most of the time
Somehow had a curse bestowed upon him by a sorcerous enemy of his, after getting framed by him. Rudyard, stiffing his upper lip like a proper Englishman, deals with the problem by asking where he should go to get it fixed. He of course, opts for place offering the most fashionable choice at the time.
I.e, opiates and opiate byproducts.
In the midst of his drug-fueled haze, he arranges to meet Rogan Gosh, the most fabled of Karmanauts and the only person reportedly able to lift the curse from him.
Rogan Gosh agrees but falls into a trap, apparently set up by his archenemy, the terrible Soma Swami (his name is derived from a legendary drink that allows you to commune with the gods but also brings about lethe). Swami bestows the curse of Kali to Rogan, who retreats to a future reincarnation, planning to lead his new form back to him in order to save himself and stop the evil god.
This isn’t presented nearly as awesome as it sounds, in case you were wondering.
Anyway, Rogan moves to the far future of 1990, where he is apparently reincarnated inside these two clowns:
Dick’s a bitter son of a bitch who hates everybody and Asshat is a stupid, emotionless bastard who ran out of his girlfriend two days before their wedding. The characters are obviously there to present Rogan Gosh’s two conflicting sides and the worst in him (as evidenced during the first few pages where we encounter him). They are also used as a means to present the Karmanaut’s process of maturing as a character and becoming something greater and better than he used to be.
This idea is excellent and I have to applaud Peter Milligan for his ingenuity, but the whole thing is lost to the reader on his first read-through (and in my case, even during the second one). Anyway, Dick and Asshat bicker, when suddenly…
The curse reaches them, kills them and tosses their souls into Maya, the greater dream that comprises the known universe according to the Hinduist mythology. Afterwards, a lot of stuff happens, half of which make no goddamn sense. I’ll save you the trouble of reading them and instead present you some choice captions, as a means to help you digest this mess:
· Rogan Gosh escapes, only to be captured by women who gangbang him until he turns to stone
No! Not this! Anything but this!
· Rudyard Kipling wakes up, then goes back to sleep again
· Rogan and Asshat have hot, steaming buttsex with each other for no discernible reason
· Rogan Gosh turns out to have been caught in Soma Swami’s snare all along and everything was a dream but not really
Anybody else notice the corrupted core that wants to go to space from Portal 2 on the upper left corner, next to the disco light?
· Kipling wakes up then goes to sleep again
· Rogan Gosh kills Soma Swami, breaks the curse, Asshat’s alter ego in some other universe tries to kill himself but at the same time turns into an avatar of Brahma and uses his newfound cosmic wisdom to try and bone his ex
Seriously? You didn’t even consider jotting the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything on a post-it note at the very least?
· Kipling finally wakes the fuck up, realizes the opium den is a trap set by Soma Swami and kills everybody with fire.
· Asshat gets together with his ex again or maybe not, has philosophical phonesex with Hannuman, the monkey god, story ends:
Mmmm, don’t stop, baby! Argue the reasoning behind our existence with me! Oooh, I love it when you get cryptic!
Rogan Gosh is a mess. In fact, if I were to liken it to the actual Indian dish, I’d say that it’s the same tasty food, only served in a comically oversized plate, with fireworks going off after every spoonful you bring to your mouth, with an entire troupe of Bollywood Dancers fixing their eyes on you and checking your every reaction.
It’s unnecessarily convoluted and burdened with way too many deep, philosophical themes, but beautifully presented, if at times a bit too lavishly for its own good.
I fucking hate ‘artists’.
I’m not talking of course about designers, painters, sculptors or what have you that use their Art as a skill to earn themselves a living, of course. I’m referring to the dickwipes that create Art for Art’s sake, without skill or purpose. People that call themselves artists simply because they think they deserve the title and spend their entire goddamn time creating incomprehensible shit and looking down on you for not getting the joke.
Greece is chock full of idiots like these; people who make Art for its own sake, 21stcentury philosoraptors who waste everybody’s goddamn time by mulling over obscure stupid shit and using big-ass terms they don’t even comprehend in order to make themselves look intelligent. This, I guess, is partly the reason why I got so pissed off at Rogan Gosh.
Rogan Gosh is the perfect example of Art handled with skill, but without purpose. But even if there is a purpose to it, some moral, then it doesn’t come across to the reader, at all. Let’s not forget that Art is mostly used as a medium to communicate a message to its reader, to make him share the creator’s (and his culture’s) perspective and most importantly, to incite him to create Art of his own.
Art that fails to do that isn’t Art.
It’s shit; and it’s convoluted, weird, stupid shit at that.
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