• Barbarella #1

    Barbarella #1
    Released by: Dynamite Entertainment
    Released on: December 6th, 2017.
    Written by: Mike Carey
    Illustrated by: Kenen Yarar
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    Barbarella is best known, these days at least, as a feature film made in 1968 starring Jane Fonda in the titular role. But before Roger Vadim brought her to the big screen, Barbarella was a comic book created by Jean-Claude Forest in the early sixties, and one that brought with it some controversy due to its adult nature. Dynamite Entertainment brings the character back to her four color roots with this new series, written by Mike Carey and beautifully illustrated by Kenen Yarar, and have wisely decided to label the book for mature audiences. What would Barbarella be without a bit of sex, after all?

    When the story begins, Parosian First Officer Piety alerts his commander that Terran ships are heading their way, their purpose unknown. The gunnery Deacons are ordered to fire at will and when the enemy is vanquished, loud Hosannas are uttered… until another vessel that doesn’t look like a Terran ship arrives on the scene. They bring the smaller, pink ship into their hold and prepare to board when, suddenly, it opens before they can get inside. Out comes Barbarella, a beautiful blonde – her Null-D regulator failed her and her ship needs service. That’s how and why she wound up in a combat zone. Her ship is scanned, as is Barbarella herself, at which point it is determined that she’s carrying bio-contraband.

    She’s brought in to serve trial as a harlot and a bio-smuggler – but when placed in front of a judge and asked how she pleads, she confesses she doesn’t understand the charges. A Deacon loads up with suitable ammunition – an explanation for Laity, of Commandment 289-73. He loads his gun and shoots her with just that, after which she has the holy missive ‘beamed direct’ to her ‘sensorium’ and as this happens we learn how it was deemed that, to keep the soul clean, the removal of desire was made law and the act of physical love made obsolete. Sex organs were ‘edited out’ of people, but as Barbarella is from somewhere else, she’s still ‘all woman’ and therefore carrying bio-contraband. She’s sentence to fifty years of detention and her anatomy is ordered to be confiscated.

    Once this is done, her body remade against her will, she’s sent to prison – but swears that she’ll be back to reclaim what was taken from her. In prison she’s preached at and forced to work, tanning leather to be used to make jackets for those outside to use for off-world export and digging ditches, given only six hours of sleep a night. Barbarella finds some comfort in the arms of another woman, an Earthling named Jury, the two of them showing quite blatantly the prison populace that love and desire don’t just come from the body, but from the mind as well. This inspires the other inmates to experiment on their own. Jury and Barbarella talk, they tell one another their stories, and then make their escape, planning to work together to give the Parosian Church a little Hell…

    “Was that your first act of blasphemy?”
    “I don’t keep count.”

    Taking more than a few well aimed (and well deserved) shots at religious zealots and the far right, Mike Carey’s script is as timely as it is humorous and, yes, exciting. Sexy even. This first issue is a solid read, introducing us to Barbarella quickly but not without properly setting up the situation first. Teaming her up with Jury is an interesting move and it gives her a partner to play off of (and play with) – but in an interesting twist, it’s Barbarella that’s the student, not the teacher. It’ll be interesting to see how that angle develops, and of course, where the core of the story goes from here. It won’t spoil anything to note that this issue ends on a cliffhanger – most first issues due – with the plotline having ramped up the action considerably in the last few pages.

    As to the artwork, Kenen Yarar’s style is perfect for this book. There’s loads of detail in every frame and a lot of great character design work here too. At times you can see a Moebius influence, maybe a little Guido Crepax and just the right amount of Jean-Claude Forest – this definitely has a Euro-comics look to it – but Yarar makes the book his own, laying down his own vision and yes, showing those influences, but never resorting to aping them. Colorist Mohan does excellent work here too, complementing Yarar’s penciling beautifully. The book’s look is cartoonish, a little exaggerated, but in the best possible way. It does a great job of emphasizing the humor, sexuality and less than subtle political slants of Carey’s story just as it should.

    Bring on issue #2!