Sunday, February 11, 2018

Barbarella #2 Review and Spoilers

Collateral Damage?

Written by: Mike Carey
Art by: Kenan Yerar
Colours by: Mohan
Letters by: Crank!
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Having crash-landed on Parosia a planet ruled by religious fundamentalists who subsequently confiscated her reproductive organs, Barbarella is on the run, aided by an Earth agent, Jury Quire, whose cybernetic body holds a host of secrets. This issue promises to build on the first's intriguing premise and expand on the creative team's already impressive world-building. Barbarella and Jury just have to survive that life-threatening fall first…

And, of course, they do. Barbarella just grabs hold of a passing razor-dove, Jury grabs her leg and the pair makes a not entirely soft landing in a nearby House of Penitence, from which, disguised as nuns, they leave a couple of pages later. In the intervening time, though, the reader is given an elegantly and succinctly delivered bit of background that covers Barbarella's enhanced abilities, the Parosians' somewhat fractious relationship with science (one day, I'd love to read something that acknowledges that many of the foundational laws of science were actually discovered by people who were religious, but never mind), and the Parosians' predilection for remote self-flagellation through the use of whip-wielding robots and implanted neuro-transmitters. Carey is really very good at this. He uses Jury as a 'guide' but does so in a way that keeps things moving very agreeably.

And Yerar's art is perfect for the kind of rich, baroque world our characters inhabit. When they emerge from the House of Penitence, the reader is treated to a view of Parosian society which emphasises the huge disparity in wealth and privilege between the rulers and the ruled: people ride pigs or travel in giraffe-drawn carriages or triple decker buses, while the ruling caste's towers rise phallically above them. This is inventive, bizarre but above all engaging stuff.

Still disguised as nuns, Jury takes Barbarella to meet their contact who is disguised as a beggar, and, after a very well-executed chase scene in which Barbarella's doubts about exactly what the Earth spies are up to on Parosia begin to surface, our fugitives finally reach a kind of safety in a hidden cell. The rest of the comic is concerned with the contact, Ix Pendrum, and his charmingly deranged veterinarian-turned-spy Kettlesmith, a local robot whose allegiance to Pendrum is at least partly based on the fact that the Earthman will allow him to 'improve' the spy's body. His admission that he "loves" Pendrum is startling, but not one the reader has much time to ponder as things take a decidedly darker turn.

Jury, it turns out, has only been told a portion of the true reason for her mission. Not only that, but, unbeknown to her, she is carrying a vital component in her body, which Pendrum promptly retrieves. It turns out that there is indeed an apocalyptic weapon on Parosia, but it isn't the Parosians who have it, but Pendrum and he has orders to activate it in an effort to wipe out the Parosians and win the war for Earth. Needless to say Barbarella's not especially happy about this and the issue ends with Barbarella blasted and unconscious on the floor and Jury being given an extremely difficult choice about what should happen next.

Bits and Pieces:

As with the previous issue, this has been something of a delight to read. Barbarella is a great character, a heroic woman with a very clear moral compass and a very appealing resourcefulness. What's most impressive about this issue, though, is how Carey and Yerar very skilfully tell this story, fleshing out a bizarre (yet weirdly familiar) world while providing plenty of incident and intrigue without any discernible dragging of pace whatsoever. This comic might not be for everyone, but if you like your sci-fi adventurous, quirky and bold, this should be right up your alley.