I completed another graphic novel in my 2018 resolution to read more comics. This time I acquired “The Metabarons” by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimenez. Having read “The Incal” I was fully expecting a graphic novel that was visionary, hallucinatory, dreamlike, and insane. The Metabarons was all of those things, but it was also terribly, ruthlessly violent. It fit the story and setting perfectly, but I’m not certain I enjoyed it.
“The Metabarons” tells the story of the clan of the same name, and all the terrible circumstances that forges the title holder of Metabaron into an unstoppable, merciless, ludicrously-powered warrior. To properly tell such a story, you need unflinching violence. Not action-packed battles or thrilling encounters. Terrible, hard-to-watch violence. If you’re going to tell the story of someone groomed to be wholly pitiless and unstoppable, you need to grit your teeth and get your hands dirty. Very dirty. And also your soul dirty, if you’re going to explore what it takes to become someone, or something, dedicated entirely to destruction. Juan Gimenez’s gorgeously gruesome art was perfect for this ultra-violent tale and there was an eerie, unsettling beauty to the grotesque displays of slaughter.
I am not certain I enjoyed The Metabarons, because it did its job too well. In this tale of violence and war, objects and people of true beauty are casualties. Ideas of peace and serenity are skewered and incinerated in the endless tide of conflict. But for all these hard-to-watch displays of violence, The Metabarons never glorifies it. Jodorowsky never once presents these events as something to admire. He puts these terrible deeds before us and wants us to witness them as horrors. The endless violence takes its toll on the line of the Metabarons, with the narrator proclaiming “No Metabaron was ever happy!” If The Metabarons had even once glorified or embraced the ruthless violence within it, I do not think I could have finished it.
Still, it was as delightfully insane as anything I’ve read by Jodorowsky so far. The man’s imagination is unhinged and it’s mesmerizing to watch his ideas flow into his projects with little to no filter. A castrated cyborg impregnates his wife with a single drop of his blood. An infant is decapitated(!) in a psychic battle between its parents and somehow manages to survive. The last poet in the universe is only a head in a machine-palace. A woman with a man’s brain surgically and psychically impregnates himself/herself using her own genetic material. A galaxy-sized(!) lice monster tries to eat the universe. And that’s only scratching the surface of this insanity.
“The Metabarons” is definitely worth reading, the same as a well-crafted but hard-to-watch war movie is worth seeing. It’s gruesomely beautiful and borderline crazy, and whether you like it or not, you certainly will not forget it.