The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky


As with most of what I read this one popped up on my Amazon feed. Gosh, I wonder how much extra money I have spent because of that technology, o well. I did not do much research on this one other than I knew that it was a French comic from a pretty famous and artist. So I figured why not, plus I read that this book had something to do with the movie The Fifth Element so I had to check it out.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is probably the most famous comic writer outside the US. Along with that this is probably one of the most famous if not the most famous foreign comic ever written. Interestingly enough Jodorosky has not only written comics, its where he got his start, but he has also directed quite a few films over the years. He seems like a very interesting dude, and my short paragraph here is not doing any homage to him or his work.

The story starts out with a man named John Difool who is a class R detective finds himself in an unlikely situation. Through a bizarre circumstance he stumbles upon a mutant who gives him the Incal to keep safe. Soon everyone is after him trying to get the mysterious Incal. John is unaware of the power he possesses and along his journey picks up a few friends Metabaron, Kill Wolfhead, Animah, Tanatah just to name a few. The evil Technopriests are after the Incal because they want to destroy it so the Darkness they worship can take over the universe. The story follows the unlikely group of heroes and anti-heroes across alien worlds, different dimensions, and one problem after another to try and save the universe.

After reading this one I am somewhat perplexed and not quite sure what to say about this one. First I will say that depending on who you ask this book is one of the most famous comics out there. Rolling Stone Magazine named it 30 on its list of Non Superhero Comics and this book made many other similar lists. It is obviously famous, but dang it I thought it was well, it just sucked. I mean for the life of me I just could not get into it. When I first started reading I was intrigued as to what was going on and for the first 50 pages or so I was into it, but that excitement quickly faded as the story dragged on needlessly and painfully at times. I was quickly begging for this one to end as I stared at the more than 200 pages I had left to read. But I finished it and I quietly gave myself a small parade.

I found this one somewhat strange not just in terms of the story itself, which is certainly out there. I will say that Moebius is one of the most creative writers I have seen. I mean literally nothing is out of the realm of possibility and this story shows that. However, I think that also leads into some of my criticism of the story. For me the story just flowed like a river rushing past an epic Western scene, with a back drop of snowcapped mountains and a lush forest. What I am trying to say here is that the story never slows down for a single second and the instant something is introduced the book is already on to the next idea and the next outrageous plot driver. Which on one level is somewhat cool, but at the same time it is, well not exhausting, but just seems overdone. I mean one ridiculous idea is just outdone by the next, which continued to happen till the very end. Sometimes there is just too much going on in terms of far and fantastic ideas and I think this book is a great example of that. While I say far fantastic ideas, honestly, it was just a bunch of really weird, I mean really weird crap thrown together and made to work. There is never really a moment in the story where there is any reflection on what has happened or is happening to the characters, everything just keeps moving forward, always forward. While this is not always necessary for a story to work, this one I felt desperately need it as there was just too much crap thrown in.

The more I think about this one I am not overly impressed with it. The characters in the story never seem to reflect on anything that has happened to them and much like the story just keep moving forward with little though as to what has happened to them. I also found that characters were thrown in and at times was hard to follow who was who and what their purpose was. I also felt like the main characters were a little shallow and really seemed like shells just going through the motions. I could not connect with any character and felt it near impossible to dive into the story. This one was hard to read basically throughout.

The one bright spot in my opinion was the ending. By the time I finally finished the book I was relieved to be at the end, however the ending somewhat surprised me and thought it was pretty cool. However, the coolness cannot make up for the hours I spend painstakingly getting through this massive tomb of silliness. If you read any of my blog posts I am always very interested in the meaning of stories and what the “experts” think is the meaning behind them. There is a whole analysis of this story on Wikipedia and I could see little if any of anything they are talking about in the story. But I just could not get into it.

This story is not without its controversy. Alejandro Jodorowsky wrote the story and Jean Giraud a.k.a. Moebius was the artist for the first few issues of the story. The reason for the controversy is that there is some evidence that the movie The Fifth Element borrows heavily from this story. While a lot of movies sometimes do this the movie never gave proper credit to the story, so Jodorowsky sued the director saying that he stole his story and did not give him credit. However, Giraud worked on the film so the lawsuit was thrown out because Giraud also worked on the book. I honestly have a hard time believing that the book influenced the movie. There are certainly some similarities but I think they are somewhat few and far between. Plus I think there is so much going on in the book and only a few things that you could point to and say that is similar to what is in the book. But I think James Cameron had to give credit and royalties to Harlan Ellison for one of his stories that he claimed Cameron stole to create Terminator. But again I think this is a non-issue mainly because the court ruled in favor of the movie. But there is a bunch of people out on the net saying otherwise. Plus Brian Michael Bendis wrote a nice little forward for this book where he gushed over this book and condemned those that have ripped off this book. He also said that this was one of his favorite books and one that he is quite passionate about.

This one seems to have a sort of underground following. I had never heard of it until recently, but I think among comic enthusiast or those that know more famous and obscure books really like this one. It kind of seems like this book is going to be the answer to a Jeopardy question or something. For me though I am not sure what all the fuss is about. I really cannot jump on board as to what is so great about this one. Although I will concede a bit by saying that it is an older story so at that time, 1981, it could have been seen as revolutionary. Putting stories like this back into context of their time is very difficult to do, and that could have a lot to do with me not really liking this one.

The artwork in this one is simple but does provide enough detail to make the story work. Moebus is an extremely famous artist but honestly I did not think there was anything special about the artwork itself. It kind of reminds me of the Where’s Waldo books, to me the artwork is very similar. I should also mention that there were a few different artist to work on the story throughout its entirety. In my opinion the last chapter had the best artwork, but that is just me. There was plenty of color and unique landscapes that were easily brought to life. Overall the artwork was ok, nothing fancy or over the top.

As I am sure you can tell after this lengthy review, I did not really care for this one. There was just too much going on and nothing seemed to really flow together, it was just one incident after another, and to me that did not necessarily make for a great story. The artwork is very simple not overly detailed, but I think fits the timeframe of publication and fits the story. Although, I think if there was a more detailed and traditional artwork this could have made for a better read. This one is also very long, over 300 pages, with lots of talking. Sometimes when you have long stories like this many of the pages are not necessarily filled with dialogue, but that is not the case here. Almost every page had plenty of dialogue which makes for an even longer read.




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