Review: Following up on the new BEFORE THE INCAL Edition

Title: Before the Incal
Writer: Alexandro Jodorowsky
Artist: Zoran Janjetov
Publisher: Humanoids

Reviewed by John Anderson

I wrote my first review of this book after reading the recoloured version that Humanoids published a few years ago. Reading this new version, in its original colours and size, is like reading a whole new story, and it made me want to write another review.

The recoloured version used much darker computer colouring, because, Humanoids claimed, a darker colour scheme would appeal to new readers who weren’t already familiar with the dark world of the Incal. Comparing the two versions (you can see some images from both versions here), I notice that some shading and even character details were removed or sometimes added in the recoloured version, which make the art look extremely different from how it was originally intended. In general, the recoloured version, with its glossy computer gradations, seems to me like an amateurish attempt to be dark and adult, while the original, with its bright colours, adds a layer of irony to this bleak world. On the surface it looks like a happy and carefree world, but in reality it’s incredibly sad, and it’s even more sad because it looks so cheerful.

Towards the end of the book, the art gets much more detailed and the colouring correspondingly more complicated. It’s nothing like the slickness of Technopriests, the other book Janjetov has done for Jodorowsky, but you can see the beginnings of that style here. This edition includes a short black and white sketchbook section, where Janjetov talks a bit about his artistic process.

The scene where a man, dressed like a colourful clown, burns himself alive while telling jokes live on TV is one of my favourite scenes in the whole book. The horror of the event is undercut by Janjetov’s ludicrous characters and bright colours. In the recoloured version this scene is dark, but in the original, it’s heartbreaking. Then to top it off, Deepo (John’s concrete seagull pet) drops an exploding fish on the cops, and onlookers are relieved that a terrorist attack has broken up the monotony of the day. Can it get any darker than this?

Actually it can. John tries his hardest and goes to extremes in his pursuit of the truth, but nothing he can do can have any effect. Maybe Jodorowsky wrote himself into a corner by deciding to have this story lead into The Incal. I assume that he didn’t want to upset the continuity of the The Incal, so he had to give this book a less than satisfying ending. Really, it ends in the only way it could end.

This is the only chance you’ll have to read Before the Incal in its original size and colouring. If you’re curious about John’s life before the events of The Incal, or if you’re a fan of Jodorowsky’s mad storytelling style, Before the Incal is for you.

The Beguiling has several copies of the gorgeous, oversized “Before The Incal” in stock now.