The Incalculable Incal


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The Incal, Volume 1: Orphan of the City Shaft, by Alexandro Jodorowsky (script) and Zoran Janjetov (art), with characters created by Jodorowsky and Moebius. Humanoids, 2001.

From our first introduction to the crazed dystopic world of Alexandro Jodorowsky’s picaresque hero, John Difool, it is clear we are in capable hands.  Inhabiting the complex universe that Jodorowsky’s other heroes call home (nicknamed by fans as the “Jodoverse”), Difool crosses paths with a plethora of Metabarons and Technopriests alike.

When we first meet young John, he’s torn up over his father’s imprisonment and his mother’s descent into prostitution, drug addiction, and eventual suicide.  Forced to make his way on his own, Difool inevitably falls into a rough crowd.  Only the friendship of a loyal robot named Kolbo-5 and a “concrete seagull” named Deepo (evoking the stone-like winged steeds of Moebius’s Arzach ) protects him from death, or worse.

John Difool and his companions original appeared in stories by Jodorowsky and Moebius (some of which were reprinted in Heavy Metal in the early 80s).  Jodorowsky later retained the services of artist Zoran Janjetov to create two prequels to the series.  In the first of these prequels, Orphan of the City Shaft, Janjetov fills in for the absent Moebius with unnatural ability, designing elaborate backgrounds populated by diverse and imaginative creations, both human and otherwise.

The early chapters of Difool’s “origin” story primarily involve him wandering about, revealing to the reader the various layers of his vertically structured world.  At the top of the world are the ruling Aristos, satirically depicted with mechanical “halos” over their heads.  The Aristos in turn obey the commands of the frequently cloned president and the all-knowing disembodied brain known as the Technopope.  

Rising up from the Red Ring area of the City Shaft, Difool has nothing to lose as he does battle with the ruling classes – to redeem his father and mother, to survive, to pursue his unattainable Aristo love, and, ultimately, to solve a deep and forbidden mystery.

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Janjetov’s art is consistently striking in its obsessive detail and broad, elaborate style.  The book’s many humorous sequences, particularly those involving Kolbo-5 and Deepo, evoke the best of world animation. 

The book maintains a sense of comedic chaos throughout, mixing sharp satire of religion, class and politics with broad scatological antics.  And the ribald, open sexuality that’s practically a trademark of European fantasy and science fiction is everywhere on display.  Observant readers may notice that in many of the panels, nudity has been covered over with wraps, draperies and other devices – no doubt to enable the book’s sale in the U.S. without the risk of prosecution.

As a story, Orphan of the City Shaft leaves something to be desired, meandering from one episode to the next.  But as an exercise in elaborate world creation, it is all but unparalleled.  (Luc Besson’s classic film The Fifth Element owes so much to the world of The Incal that the comic’s creators sued, unsuccessfully, for infringement.)  Stronger stories arise in the original volumes by the series’ creators, Jodorowsky and Moebius, collected in the awkwardly-titled The Incal: The Epic Conspiracy and The Incal: The Epic Journey.  But if you’re seeking a relatively straightforward introduction to the Jodoverse, Volume 1 of The Incal is a great place to start.

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Jeff Loew has been named a finalist in the "Be A Visionary" contest sponsored by Visionary Comics Studio and Markosia Enterprises.  His story,"I Married Ghost Girl," appears in the Arcana anthology, Dark Horrors, listed in Previews (SEP06 3063) and available soon in fine comic shops everywhere. Find out more about Jeff's work at his website, www.movingpanels.com.


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