Title: Weapons of the Metabaron
Words: Alexandro Jodorowsky
Art: Travis Charest, Zoran Janjetov
Review by John Anderson
At the beginning of Weapons of the Metabaron, the Metabaron has lost his memory. He meets eight ancient wise men who help him remember a vivid, heroic episode of his life, which is beautifully painted by the popular superhero comic book artist Charest. This episode was thought lost, but the Metabaron experiences it as part of a framing story illustrated by Janjetov. So the structure of the story is a metaphor for the history of the project itself.
This project was first announced ten years ago, as Dreamshifters. But Charest’s work took much longer than expected, and we had to wait until 2008’s Les Armes du Méta-Baron to see the 29 pages that Charest had completed. To speed the completion of the book, the remaining 26 pages were illustrated by Janjetov (the artist of Before the Incal and The Technopriests). It came out in English as Weapons of the Metabaron in 2011; this week’s release is a new edition with thicker paper stock.
For the most part, Charest’s hyperrealistic and beautifully coloured paintings are fantastic. They shine in depicting the sci-fi sword and sorcery battles of the Metabaron against huge demons and hordes of lizard men. The dynamic panels and two-page spreads allow the action to be told with few words. Part of the story is an exciting and moving retelling of the final battle between the last Metabaron and his father-mother, Aghora, and I like how Charest uses a collage of action shots to illustrate it. However, there are some places where it looks like Charest left out the backgrounds. The lack of detail in a few panels is jarring compared with the incredible detail in the rest of his art.
Unfortunately, Janjetov’s art seems pedestrian compared to Charest’s. There are no pages where the panels are divided by lightning, no two-page collages of terrific battles. However, as I’ve mentioned, Janjetov’s art serves as a framing story for the segment drawn by Charest. This is a clever idea and helps make the change in art less disrupting.
The story is one of the most mystical that Jodorowsky has written. The Metabaron is sent on a number of dream-quests to find the most powerful weapons in the universe. But although he is dreaming, the weapons he finds in his dreams become real. It reminds me of some of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion stories, where the hero is sent on quests, often for a reason he doesn’t quite understand. He’s simply an agent of a higher power.
My biggest complaint with Weapons of the Metabaron is that it ends much too suddenly. Now that the Metabaron has been transformed into a living weapon, what will he do? This feels like a prelude to a much bigger adventure. I wonder if the original project had been intended to be something bigger, but circumstances forced the creators’ hands.
But the book we ended up with is a worthy addition to the Metabarons story. Charest’s dynamic and vibrant images paired with Jodorowsky’s mystical storytelling is something very special.