Monday, May 23, 2011

31 Days of Comics #23

Son of the Gun #1: Sinner
By Alexandro Jodorowsky and Georges Bess

No matter what medium it’s in, a story by Alexandro Jodorowsky is probably going to take a bit of work to fully appreciate. It takes a reasonably strong constitution to sit through something like The Holy Mountain in search of transcendence, and it takes a lot of effort to really get into his sprawling, messy and beautiful Metabarons comics.

But his Juan Solo stories, drawn by Georges Bess in the mid-nineties and reprinted during the brief and wonderful Humanoids/DC Comics collaborative publishing era, are a lot easier to take in. There is still a lot of over-complication in the tale of Juan’s rise and fall, but it’s the story of a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top.

This does not make Juan a likeable character as he betrays anybody he can for his own methods, and shoots anybody who gets in his way with the pistol he suckled on as an infant. But he is aware of his own unhumanity, and judging by the way the series kicks off, that self-awareness ultimately destroys him.

It’s a simple enough tale, even when it gets all political, but this is a Jodorowsky story, and his usual flair for arresting imagery and brutal savagery is there in Son of the Gun. It starts with the main character as an old man willingly taking part in his own crucifixion, then flashes back to his birth, where he was abandoned as a freak for having a fully functioning tail, and after he is rescued by the ugliest dwarf since Don’t Look Now, he uses an old pistol as a pacifier and gets his nutrition from a dog’s teat.

There are severed hands in the sangria and a President ordering the execution of his own traitorous daughter, and the first half ends with Juan at the top of his powers, with a long, long climb back into redemption ahead of him.

(I have to confess, I still haven’t read the second half. Distribution of the Humanoids/DC comics was always marginal at best, and I haven’t ever seen that second volume anywhere. I’ll be sure to get it when I finally do see it. It’s on the list.)

Jodorowsky has created some of the most fascinating grotesques in fiction, and the Juan Solo comics are full of ugly, ugly people, all depicted with all due care by Bess, a French artist who has melded that classic European formalism with some real Latin fire. There is a huge dose of mid-period Moebius in Bess’ line, but his pages also look like they’ve been baked in a wood-fire oven.

It all combines to produce a lovely little comic full of people doing horrible things to each other. Jodorowsky was having obvious fun while writing the story of Juan Solo, and his idea of fun is beautifully unique.

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