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The Metabarons: Path of the Warrior

Europe, like Japan and the U.S., has their own style of comic book making. Most European books are printed in a larger, thinner format called graphic albums, not novels. One company that is bringing European comics to America is the fairly new Humanoids Publishing (their American branch is new, anyway).

Humanoids has been a comic producer in Europe since 1988 (the company having started under a different name in 1974 and later purchased) and the list of artists that work for the company is damn impressive, Moebius being the most well known.

It has only been in that last few years that Humanoids has had a foot-in-the-door of American comics (besides a brief exposure for their product during Marvel/Epic line in 1988) and one of their most popular titles in English or any other language is The Metabarons.

The Metabarons is actually a spin-off series from Moebius' epic The Incal (The Incal is just now getting translated for American audiences with one volume out, due to the success of The Metabarons) but one wouldn't notice while reading this book.

They are a clan of warriors that have a long tradition of being the most capable fighters in this or any other universe (and yes, there is more than one). Richly written by Alexandro Jodorowsky and drawn and colored gloriously by Jaun Gimenez, the tale of these warriors is a generational one.

Told in flashback, the story is narrated by a servant robot named Tonto, who is prompted to relate the tales of the Metabarons (whom he has served for centuries) to another robot servant by the designation of Lothar. It sounds weird I know, but imagine if R2-D2, instead of the beeps we assume mean he's an indignant little toaster, could actually swear at C3PO. Lothar and Tonto are fun storytellers and Jodorowsky never makes them too boring or inordinately annoying to distract us from the story.

Phew, and what a story it is. From what I've gleamed from these comics, Europeans don't like to waste a single panel in their comics. These books are energetic to say the least: in the space of twelve pages, one can see a war fought and lost, then see a large living ship come over a planet's horizon with nothing but destruction on its mind. You might even get in a little inter-galactic intrigue thrown in to boot before one hits yet another rapid plot point. While Jodorowsky may pace the book quick, it's not devoid of content. Each scene is full of dialogue and commentary, as well as story content.

In this first volume, we follow the first Metabaron, Othon Von Salza Castaka, and his trials and pains in establishing the future line of Metabarons: pains that include the loss of a son, two wives, and a planet or two.

It might be apropos to point out this book pulls no punches. Violence is violent here, and more so than in American comic books like The Authority. Men, women and children die horribly in these books, and there's also the Metabaron tradition of body-mutilation, in favor of cybernetic enhancement.

Yet due to Gimenez's superb style (you might call it Heavy Metal-esque, which is appropriate since Humanoids has published the European equivalent of and inspiration for Heavy Metal, Metal Hurlant, for years) it seems necessary to the book, maybe even grotesquely beautiful in a way (don't I sound all poetical and flowery?).

Though this is pure science fiction, the European influences show distinctly in the depiction of the Castakas. Where most of American sci-fi features a hero of some type or another as the lead character, the Metabarons are just really tough bastards who fight better than everyone else. They're not out to help anyone but themselves, and always feel the need to continue their genetic line (an aspect very much a part of the European culture as a whole is appreciation of their heritage and ancestors, a sentiment this book definitely echoes). The story is also European in that it is an epic story. Time actually passes in the books, and all the characters involved feel it. It changes them.

The Metabarons is an excellent read, especially if you're a fan of Heavy Metal, or just looking for something other than the normal superhero fare. There are two subsequent volumes out already: The Metabarons: Blood and Steel and The Metabarons: Poet and Killer, as well as another on the way in February, and they are all reasonably priced (cheap comics goooood, $35 hardcover reprints are baaaaad).

Stay well read and frugal. 'Til next time.

The Metabarons: Path of the Warrior

Robert Sparling

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