This book collects early examples of Moebius' science fiction work, and is typical for showing his exploration of different artistic styles. Several o...moreThis book collects early examples of Moebius' science fiction work, and is typical for showing his exploration of different artistic styles. Several of the works were commissioned by big business interests who wanted to inspire their employees and readers.
The commercial aspects of these stories are a bit silly, as is Moebius' attempt to inject his humanitarian spiritual philosophies. Each story has a foreword and afterword, and in these Moebius talks briefly about his experiences with various spiritual movements and gurus.
The story published in a French finance magazine is particularly saccharine, with long expository passages about mankind's propensity for war, destructive nature, failure to live 'in balance', and the failure of its religions to move towards 'cosmic unity'. Like many romanticized sci fi allegories before and since, Moebius' aliens are stand-ins for angels, and all the philosophies of peace, love, and progress they espouse are about as profound as you'd expect.
There are some interesting moments in the comics, which seem original and thought-provoking, but Moebius often ends up trying to explain them to us, immediately transforming them from mysterious to didactic allegory.
Still there is some originality, depth of character, sense of humor, and lovely art which lift the works up.(less)
For some reason, the publishers decided to re-color this book for American release. The digital color work not only completely covers up the original...moreFor some reason, the publishers decided to re-color this book for American release. The digital color work not only completely covers up the original line art, but gives us the awful dodge-and-burn murkiness we'd expect from drawings of pokemon sex on deviantart.
There is a lengthy explanation inside about how the original colors were bright, but Americans wouldn't understand that this was supposed to be hyperbolic satire. It seems they could have saved the art by simply using that space to explain "the use of color here is not only beautiful, it is hyperbolic satire which contrasts delightfully with the subject matter".
They also decide to bowdlerize the art for the American audience, I can only wonder which parts of the dialogue survived translation. Really disappointing.
The title is also translated as 'The Incal' even though this is a prequel series before the character even comes into contact with the Incal. This not only makes the title nonsensical, but confusing, since it has been translated to have the same title as the earlier story which it was written as a prequel to, and by a different art team.
This book would have been more impressive if I had come to it without as much background on Moebius. From the general to the specific, it is culled fr...moreThis book would have been more impressive if I had come to it without as much background on Moebius. From the general to the specific, it is culled from other works and collaborations of the artist's. The early style is owed to 'The Long Tomorrow' written by Dan O'Bannon and illustrated by Moebius. That innovative story also marks one of the first forays into cyberpunk, and was a major influence on the film 'Blade Runner'.
The rest of the story is little differentiated from Moebius' various Metal Hurlant works except in terms of length. The length and height of the story soon become a problem for Jodorowsky, who quickly finds a bottom-up character driven plot too difficult to maintain, and settles for a top-down lead-by-the-nose centered on a vague, all-powerful artifact.
The artifact soon solves all the problems, from epic battles to small character conflicts. As the magic expands and overwhelms the story, we are treated to a lot of new age spirituality and moralizing from the author. The stronger the mythological dichotomy of good and evil becomes, the less room remains for humanity and sympathy.
Between the fast-moving storyline and the overweening symbolism, any introduction of character-building begins to feel positively intrusive. Many scifi stories have presented humanity as being unnatural, but very rarely because of an overindulgence in romanticism.
L'Incal sometimes reads like a more mature Star Wars, with violence, sexuality, and satire. At other times it trades away its sophistication for naive grandiloquence, as the author tries to say something profound about 'truth' and 'meaning'. As usual, overconfidence serves the author very well when he attempts something simple, but causes him to be too lackadaisical when attempting the difficult.
The art is amazing as always, but these stories show some of Moebius' weaknesses as an author. Sci fi writers often fall into the trap of trying to ha...moreThe art is amazing as always, but these stories show some of Moebius' weaknesses as an author. Sci fi writers often fall into the trap of trying to have their characters explain things that the author, himself does not understand. Of course, no author can presume to know precisely how a warp drive will be used, if we ever do. Yet, authors still behave as if they did.
It's one thing to have a writer with a scientific background, such as Asimov or Niven writing complex explanations, but such speculation from a lay person is only going to distract any reasonably-informed reader. Even 'Hard Sci Fi' authors tend to be content to let their technology stand on its own, recognizing that any attempt to explicate the unknown is doomed to failure.
And what's more, Moebius is not content to explain only scientific unknowns, but must also give us an earful of his spiritual expertise, which usually boils down to 'use the force', except with more unnecessary profundity.
This obsession with a moralizing message often undermines the simple joy and drive of his art and stories. One story becomes a pamphlet for eating a raw food diet, a message which seems unimportant and unrelated to the grander questions the story explores.
Moebius also simplifies and overstates his case (admitting as much in the introduction), which should make any author recall the adage that 'if you cannot explain something without resorting to oversimplification and hyperbole, then you don't really understand it'.
I have no problem with Moebius writing a myth that explores the human condition, but when it is portrayed as authoritative or as an advert, I feel the author is insulting my intelligence. Every author should have the humility to recognize their boundaries and to remain within them. Knowing your boundaries does require constantly pushing and testing them, but the most errant faltering steps should be excised from a finished work.
This over-stepping often shows itself in sci fi through the character dialogue about their future world. The characters constantly marvel at everyday things, explaining them to everyone in ear shot:
"I will enter the search term into the web search engine, Google.com, which will then comb through millions of entries to find the article we need"
"Oh, look! It has already finished, and in only 2-3 seconds time!"
"What an age we live in."
And so on. This is a sign that the author doesn't understand the world or the technologies they are writing about, and hence, cannot figure out how to tell us how they work without pure, unnatural exposition.
A good sci fi story should allow the technologies to seem natural to the characters, but still make the general effects clear to us. Hell, most people nowadays couldn't explain how Google works.
The less serious stories don't always fare better, either, as they often have no point at all. Moebius rarely escapes the extremes of absurd nonsense and grandiose allegory, but one can at least find interesting human stories between his wild vacillations (most of the time).
Interesting to see Gir's art looking a little more raw and unsure here. After reading so many of his later Sci Fi and Blueberry books, I'm used to see...moreInteresting to see Gir's art looking a little more raw and unsure here. After reading so many of his later Sci Fi and Blueberry books, I'm used to seeing only the peerless professional.
These books were drawn at the same time as the 'Lieutenant Blueberry' series and were meant to provide a background for the widely popular character. We are given an explanation for his unusual name (an unsurprising explanation given that modern westerns take their cue from Yojimbo) and shown the source of his distinctive broken nose.
Like most Blueberry stories, our hero is always in some bind, forced to play the North and South against one another and constantly dodging the noose. The story is fast-paced, but sometimes too frenetic. The suspense is rarely broken and the dialogue tends to the expository.
We also don't get the same awe-inspiring vistas that mark the high-point of the series (his outlaw years). The coloring is lackluster and garish, so that the psychedelic palette that lends otherworldly beauty to the later books seems here merely busy and unnatural.
Gir was using this book to work out a new style in new media, so it isn't surprising that his flow and composition suffer along with his familiarity. Luckily the experiment eventually produces great results, and we can see here not only Gir's solid draftsmanship, but the promise of his future successes.
The book is entertaining and the art is competent, but the work does little to distinguish itself from the western tradition from which it springs. The gaudy colors, the narrow characters, and the endless, repetitive action are all artifacts of the genre which Gir and Charlier later find ways to finesse and subvert into something more remarkable. Still, for a pulp western comic, one couldn't ask for much more than we get here.
It's so odd to see Charlier and Gir in such a rough state. In the earliest incarnations of Blueberry, there is little to differentiate him from any of...moreIt's so odd to see Charlier and Gir in such a rough state. In the earliest incarnations of Blueberry, there is little to differentiate him from any of the other pulp western comics. Charlier uses real historic terms and events to connect his reader to the story, but then makes little anachronistic errors that rarely show up in the later books.
Likewise, Gir's work is solid, but unremarkable. The transitions are sometimes awkward and there are a surprising number of anatomical errors and inconsistencies in characterization. There is a suggestion of his remarkable eye for backgrounds (especially in the few more heavily-inked panels) but if I hadn't known it was Gir, I doubt I would have guessed.
I read a fairly literal fan translation, which, based on my knowledge of Charlier's style, indicates a certain inelegance in the storytelling. There are extra panels and redundant exposition, though it is possible that there was something more subtle at work which the translator didn't grasp. It wouldn't be the first time.
At least it heartens the artist (and writer) in me: if they started here, then I, too, may be forgiven a certain amount of inelegance in my foundling steps; that is, if I ever make any.