In Megalex, writer Alejandro Jodorowsky assembles a perplexing science fiction story of man versus nature which flirts with absurdity.
It’s hard for me to thread the needle of talking about Jodorowsky without burdening the conversation with my own personal history. I’ve gotta tell you, when I was younger, many of the traditions he loosely incorporates in his storytelling (Fourth Way, shamanism, dream psychology) were major preoccupations of mine.
I’m not going to defend wackadoo esoteric shit, even if I used to be obsessed with it. In fact, my awareness in this area didn’t particularly enhance my experience of Megalex, although it did give me things to think about after the fact. I can summarize how I read Jodorowsky in a single word: surrender. I surrender to his tapestry of symbols and enjoy them for their sheer unpredictability and aesthetic framing. Megalex is not runic, it holds together when interpreted literally, though the glue is coarser here than in most of his comics. Jodorowsky is sort of a devilish Joseph Campbell, using his knowledge of mythic frameworks to tell weird stories. He’d probably call it magic with a straight face.
What I’m trying to communicate is that Megalex isn’t incomprehensible, heady stuff. It’s mad comics.
Artist Fred Beltran says in the foreword to this hardcover collection that the project was originally planned as a collaboration between Jodorowsky and Akira artist/director Katsuhiro Otomo (?!!). I wonder to what degree the final product resembles that original script, because Megalex largely appears to be a reflection of what Beltran himself likes to draw: sexy porcelain women.
This book is made up of three chapters, and the first two incorporate three-dimensional computer assisted design. Yes, CG. But Beltran deserves credit for earnestly trying to use CG to enhance his work, even if he doesn’t fully succeed. One only needs to take a look at U.S. War Machine MAX (2001), a comic which came out around the same time as Megalex’ original publication, to see what it looks like when CG is used to cut corners. There’s clearly a great deal of effort and care going into these Megalex pages, regardless of how computer-generated they are. Don’t get it twisted.
For not-fully-explained reasons, the final third of the book has no CG. It’s not totally jarring because it’s work from the same artist, but it looks better than the rest of the book and helps end it on a high note.
I like Jodorowsky when he’s writing sf. It seems to bring out the best from his imagination, and it’s a genre where we’re accustomed to a jarring, inexplicable quality. Similarly, it takes Fred Beltran beyond the voluptuous female figures he’s predominantly known for.
Megalex may never be as well known as The Incal, or The Metabarons, or even The Technopriests, but it’s still an off-beat science fiction story written by a shaman and drawn by a man who likes big boobs. Buy it for your grandmother on Valentine’s Day.
Review copy provided by Humanoids, Inc.