Friday, March 21, 2014

Advance Review: Metabarons Genesis: Castaka - Alexandro Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras

Edition : Oversized Deluxe Edition

112 pages - 9.4 x 12.6 inches - Color

EAN 9781594650536
$49.95 - £29.99

The comic gets released on March 26. So when the 26 comes you can buy it here!
I'm not a big fan of Space Operas. They never really grabbed me and the ones I did read never did much for me. Then steps in The Metabarons by Jodorowsky and Gimenez. 

I was skeptical about it but that skepticism disappeared when I was a few pages in and found  something new, something different than most the space operas I've read before. The Metabarons brought me a sense of excitement, wonder, and awe, it's also a series full of sadness, paranoia, and betrayal. It took me to a whole different universe filled with technological cults, mysticism, and esotericism.  Showed me a unique anthropological look at the different cultures that inhabit the universe but filtered through the mystical symbolic madness of Jodorowsky. 
So when I read that Humanoids were going to release Metabarons Genesis: Castaka, I was worried. Worried because the post-Gimenez Metabaron comics haven't really captured me. Weapons of the Metabarons (by Jodorowsky, Charest, and Janjetov), which told how the last Metabaron (the last of his line) gained his position as the most powerful warrior in the universe, was rather a dull read and how had none of the wonder. I thought that Metabarons Genesis: Castaka could fall into that pit; that thought couldn't be further from the truth. Castaka really captures everything I loved about the original Metabarons series. 

Metabarons Genesis: Castaka starts off with Baron Berard of Castaka fighting his daughter's (Edna) husband for succession. Also, the beginning of Castaka take places between the pages 22-26 of The Metabarons and Das Pastoras does an amazing job taking those pages and re-imagines them into his own vision. 
Through this generational transference, our story starts and we learn about the Amakuras clan and the Castaka clan. Two warring clans fighting over the space of their small planet.
Das Pastoras, like Gimenez, does an amazing job drawing fight scenes and sequences. They're able to perfectly compose and draw their characters in a way that you can feel their swords swinging, you can feel the anger and blood and grit coming from the page. They also don't glorify the violence, they show it in all its sadness and ugliness.
As the story continues, the queen of the Castaka clan gets raped by the king of the Amakuras clan and has his child; through this singularly horrific action the two clans get horrible intertwined. From there we experience the rise and fall and rise of the Castaka clan throughout the comic.
Das Pastoras is amazing with facial expressions. He's able to portray a range of
emotions through his characters' face.
The Metabaron series is rife with epic Greek tragedies. The series deals with rape, incest, family betrayal and with individuals who are so powerful, so singular in their approach that they are their worst enemies and they are their own downfall. Metabarons Genesis: Castaka deals with this issues just like the original series did. Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras don't shy away from these very hard issues and they follow them through. They don't glorify the rape, it's not used to make the comic gritty/dark, and Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras touch how the queen is affected by this and how an overly masculine culture deals with such a horrible offense. But they only touch and don't delve into the damages of such a horrible act. Now, they do further delve into the aftermath of the rape and how it damages and twists its future generations.

Das Pastoras's artwork just shines throughout this comic. As you can see from the images above, he does an amazing job combining Richard Corben and Moebius into his own vision. Das Pastora's use of watercolors and his mastery of the anatomy brings the visuals and visual storytelling to another level in Metabarons Genesis: Castaka. 

One problem I did have with Das Pastoras's art is the way he textures his colors. There are times where I felt the characters were colored in a way that they came off as clay figures than actual people and it threw off the rest of the coloring feeling of the comic. This is an artistic choice of Das Pastoras and a choice I really don't like but it doesn't lessen the comic.

Metabarons Genesis: Castaka brings me back to the way day I first read The Metabarons. I get transported away into a universe that's full of tragedies and hope, a universe and bloodline so fully realized, vast, and complex that with every re-reading I keep finding new things to discover and changes the way I see how comics can be done.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rembrandt - Typex

As we open Rembrandt we are welcomed with a single splash page of an elephant inside of a ship's cargo. It's weary, beaten, alone and in complete darkness. Typex portrays this in a way that's reminiscent of woodblock carving.  
This choice intensifies the feelings of the reader towards the elephant and of the elephant's loneliness and complete alienation from its environment. And serves as a foreshadowing of Rembrandt's journey: a man who was at the peak of popularity, now a shadow of himself. 

In the next couple pages, the elephant is rudely awakened and is viciously hauled out of the cargo.
Through this action we are rudely introduced into Rembrandt's world, Amsterdam 1642, but also introduced to Rembrandt himself; a man who knows how great he is and how great his skills are.

Typex does this all within nine pages; nine silent pages. There's no word bubbles, no thought bubbles, no narration boxes, just the images. It's a testament to Typex' skills as a cartoonist. And these nine pages are a great introduction to Rembrandt, in which Typex will flesh out and texturize throughout the comic.

After those nine pages, Typex begins the autobiography of Rembrandt and he tells the biography through vignettes. Rembrandt is not told linearly, but instead Typex hones in at special moments in Rembrandt's life. This is a smart move because it doesn't bore the reader in a linear path of this happens and then this happens and then this happens and so on. It also allows Typex a level of flexibility to move his narrative pieces around and have a tighter control of pacing. Because the story shifts around from the past to present to future a lot, it gives the story a level of mystery within the character motivations and actions. What may befuddle a reader at the beginning will get explained later on, giving the story a feeling that you're slowly peeling its skin.  

Throughout the story Typex portrays the world and an artist that's at odds with itself; Typex doesn't hold back and isn't afraid to show the ugly side of Rembrandt and the world he occupies. A world and artist that is full of life and wonder and beauty, but isn't afraid to destroy that beauty and wonder and not think twice of it. These stark contrasts between the two serves as a way to ground the reader, but also fill us with a sense of awe and wonder.

Typex also has an eye for composition: every panel is filled with the beautiful composition. You get a feeling that Typex meticulously placed every character and word bubbles within his panels. The eye for compositions gives the reader a sense of beauty and it also helps guide the reader to where Typex wants them to look at.
Throughout reading Rembrandt I was absolutely gobsmacked by Typex' ability to portray facial and bodily expressions. If you've read some of my past reviews, I love when cartoonists are able to use their character's face and body to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Typex does this perfectly; from the exaggerated to the nuanced to everything in-between, Typex shows he can do it all.

Another thing that caught my eye was Typex' ability to draw and color skin; I was really taken by it. Typex is able to draw skin as skin, but give it a little extra sense of flexibility, flabbiness, and softness that's not present in real life. When I see his characters' skin I feel that I can stick my hand through the comic and play around with it; there's a malleability to it. I'm finding it hard to articulate how much I love Typex' skin. The only other cartoonist who can give me this feeling of skin is Nicolas De Crécy.
Rembrandt is a modern masterpiece created by a cartoonist at the peak of his power. Typex is able to conjure its atmosphere and mood of Rembrandt, the 1600s and the world at that time. This is a comic that deserves more than one read, not to fully grasp what's going on, but because you'll want to re-experience that sense of awe you got when you first opened it.