Final Incal v1 cover header by Ladronn

Final Incal v1: “The Four John Difools”

Writer: Alexandro Jodorowsky
Artist: Ladronn
Colorist: Tatto Caballero and Ladronn
Lettering: Uncredited
Translator: Chuck Austen
Published by: Humanoids
Number of Pages: 68
Original Publication: 2014


An Admission of Ignorance

I’ve never read any of the Incal or Metabarons or Technopriests books.  I couldn’t tell you how they’re all related. (I think “Incal” came first and everything spun out of there?  I’m sure I could Wikipedia it.)  They’re just not my thing.  Occasionally, I’d flip through one, see some pretty pictures, and put it back down and move on.  For whatever reason, it never struck me as something I wanted to read.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve found it frustrating over the last 15 or 20 years when everyone in North American who picks up a license wants to publish Incal or Metabarons yet again, and leave behind so many amazing books in its wake.

Recently, Humanoids dove all-in on digital comics on the Comixology and Izneo platforms.  In the past week, they released the three volume series, “Final Incal.”  Jodorowsky writes it, as always, but this one is illustrated by the always-amazing Jose Ladronn.  I had to try it, just for Ladronn.


What the Heck is Going On?

In Final Incal v2, John Difool has a pet flying thingy

John Difool and his pet flying thingy

Amnesiac John Difool falls from the sky.  He lands in a city where all humanity is being killed by a virus, and the robots are taking over.  The president has moved to a new android body to weather the storm, and all insects are at war against the robots as the last wave of organic matter.

Or something.

Think of it this way: The Chosen One unknowingly is swept up into the middle of the planet’s destruction. He needs to dodge the bad robots who are chasing after him, fly around and past the bad ships that are tracking him, and save the world from its robot overlords.

That much is fairly straightforward.  Difool runs through the city, gets chased a bit, flies around a bit, sees some scenery, and then the plot gets really strange.  Jodorowsky goes for the multiverse concept and multiple Difools are brought together to fight the good fight.

Basically, I enjoyed the first two thirds of the book as Difool flees the police, the growing robot overlords, and the quickly dying human population. It looks great, it moves fast, and it’s visually rich.

Then he goes to another world and things just get weird and I lose interest and patience for it.


The Environmental Art of Ladronn

Ladronn draws amazing cityscapes in Final Incal v2

This book is insanely beautiful, which is kind of a funny thing to say about a world that has completely paved over nature, filled itself up with dirty machinery, and centers on human who are dying hideous deaths filled with oozing boils and nasty ugliness.

But that Ladronn can draw.  You’ll never get this level of detail and sophistication in a comic in 20 page increments every thirty days.  It’s just too much work.  He draws intricate cityscapes, plenty of humans and robots, and a few spaceships for good measure.  Any two of those things would drive other artists crazy.  For Ladronn, it looks right up his alley.

The key word with this book is “scope”.  Ladronn draws a world here where a story just happens to take place.  He fills with book with wide angles and long shots.  You see everything:  Every light on every panel, every joint connecting one piece of metal to another, and every speck of debris from previous crashes, whether of insects or ships.

Ladroon draws some ground-level concentric circles

Ladroon draws some ground-level concentric circles

He often fills the panels with the city instead of the character who’s the focus of the panel.  He can draw the lead character very small in a rather large number of panels and get away with it.  Rather than using the comics medium to push as much stuff into the reader’s face he uses it like a shadowbox.  You’re looking through a pane of glass up front, and behind the page there’s a deep and complicated world where the character happens to be running away from something.  The running character is small on the page, dwarfed by the enormity of the futuristic city.  It’s interesting to watch, because it helps to sell the environment in an interesting way.  The scale of this book is off the charts.

The first half of this book is as much about the environment it is set in as it is about the character running through it.  You get the same sense of overwhelm the Difool does.  He’s an amnesiac, so he’s an easy point of view character for the reader.  And what he’s seeing is as large and chaotic to him as it is to us.  It also just happens to produce some crazy impressive art.


Art So Good I Flipped My iPad

This random thingy looks great when blown up as big as you can

This random thingy looks great when blown up as big as you can…

I read this book on my ancient 9.7″ iPad.  One of the tricks you can pull is to read a comic in landscape mode, where the screen will expand the page of art to fill in, but only show half the page at a time.  It wides out the page, which makes the art bigger on the screen.

Given the level of detail Ladronn puts into this book, it’s well worth tilting the iPad over to read the book a half page at a time.  It adds one extra swipe motion per page to drop to the second half, but it’s worth it to see those panels at the bigger size.


Bonus: My Review of Volume 2

Final Incal v2 by Jodorowsky and Ladronn (and Moebius) cover

I didn’t make it all the way through. About halfway through the second book, I gave up. I just didn’t care.  Even accepting the four different versions of John Difool and how they interact (some humor, more annoying bickering), the general plot/tone/events are not my thing.

Jodorowsky is not my kind of writer. I’m better off looking for reading material I might enjoy from someone else.

The moral of the story today is this: No matter how beautiful the art is, a story I don’t care about won’t be enough.



Final Incal v1 cover by Ladronn for Humanoids

The first half or three quarters of volume 1 is very entertaining and visually splendid.  After that, it goes off the rails.  As of the halfway mark of book two, it hasn’t recovered.

It’s just not my thing. Lots of people love this stuff.  I’m glad they do. I won’t fight them on it.  It’s not embarrassingly badly crafted or anything. It’s just not my cuppa, as they used to say.

I’d still recommend picking up the first volume in the series when it’s one sale, just for the art and storytelling in that first half or two-thirds of the book

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #102.)


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  • dancondonjones December 4, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Again you’ve reviewed a book on my Christmas list. I really liked the other books on the series so I think I’m safe.

    • Augie December 4, 2017 at 9:34 am

      Yup, if you’ve made it this far, don’t stop now. I just need to stay in more of my own lane. =)

  • JC Lebourdais December 4, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    The Incal is a true classic from french SF. It turned Moebius into a superstar and made us discover the quirkiness of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s writing (his movies are just as weird). Ever since Giraud left us, Jodo has been expanding the Incal’s universe with many a great artist, even though the original 5 volumes were supposed to be self-contained. It’s up there with Valerian and Lone Sloane, if you like those, no reason you wouldn’t like this one as well. But you’re right, there is no jumping-on point in the series other than start at the very beginning. There have been so many different printings, some of them omnibus-type, that it’s practical to read in one sitting. The Metabarons and Technopriests are set in the same Incal universe, using secondary characters but the stories are peripheral at best so you can easily skip the spinoffs or read them separately.
    These are big-ass art books so I’m not sure reading them on a tablet renders them justice, really.


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