written by Alexandro Jodorowsky
illustrated by J.H. Williams III, Marc Riou, Mark Vigouroux, Christian Højgaard, Jerome Opeña, Axel Medellin, Adi Granov, Pascal Alixe, Ciruelo, Carlos Meglia and José Ladronn
Quite similar to the monthly British serial anthology 2000AD, which includes a wide variety of genre-bending science fiction, horror, fantasy, and action adventure narratives, Metal Hurlant was a truly international publication showcasing European, Latin American, and North American artists and authors, including recognizable mainstream American stars such as Geoff Johns, Ryan Sook, JH Williams III, Adi Granov, Kurt Busiek, and Dave Stewart, to name but a few. Screaming Planet collects eleven of Jodorowsky's stories all sharing a creative thematic core, but transpiring within different times, places, and dimensions. To achieve such a diverse presentation, Jodorowsky employs a medley of artists on each strip.
Some of the most striking features of this collection are Jodorowsky's introductions, not only to the graphic novel itself but also for each individual vignette. Not known for shorter, serialized fiction, Jodorowsky reveals how he accepted the challenge of Humanoids' publisher to craft monthly tales for the magazine. Following a three-page prologue strip establishing the thematic foundation, "The Last Word" reflects Jodorowsky's passion for mysticism and religious iconography in language, visualizations, and story conceptualization, features he continually revisits throughout the book. Detailing generations of an environmental assault on the Humhgar planet, Jodorowsky gives agency to the planet itself as it enacts revenge upon its inhabitants for their misdeeds, but in turn sets in course a spiraling trail of emotional baggage and turmoil across the universe in the planet's own self-annihilation.
As with any collected edition, some stories will definitely stand out above others either in their visual or narrative presentation. Actually, although Jodorowsky jumps around the genre playgrounds quite a bit, mixing science fiction and alien worlds alongside 19th-century British vampire horror, futurism, fantasy, and sword and sorcery vistas, he maintains a strong authorial presence in each. As a result, he unites the varied environments not only through the shared thematic structure introduced in "The Last Word," but also with his craft in dialogue, narration, and story construction and composition. Fans of Marvel Comics' Adi Granov, known widely for his time with Warren Ellis on Iron Man Extremis and his design of the highly recognizable suit of armor for the character in the two Hollywood blockbuster films, will revel in "Masters of Destiny," which provides a fascinating glimpse into his very earliest work in the sequential format. While it's unclear if Granov was using a completely digital or hybrid workflow with his art during this period, the panels appear to reflect a softer, more nuanced approach with tones and hues for shading and skin tones, giving the pages a more equalized and balanced rendering. Similarly, J.H. Williams III's work on "Eucharist Son" will delight readers because it was created during his time pencilling Alan Moore's Promethea. it was his first attempt at inking his own work, and the story was also his first collaboration with colorist Dave Stewart. The results are quite shocking when compared to the smoother and more polished feel of his recent Batman or Batwoman illustrations, but the organic nature of this Jodorowsky story is a prime example in his evolution and growth as an artist.
Screaming Planet is also an excellent showcase for an assortment of cartoonists and other artists that American audiences may or may not yet be familiar with. Igor Baranko's style on "Invasion" calls to mind the work of Mike Ruiz or Chad Hardin on Boom! Studios' Farscape Scorpius and has inspired me to track down his The Horde. Some readers will surely recognize Christian Hojgaard's pencils from Vertigo's The Dreaming, Jerome Opena in recent Marvel titles such as Punisher, Vengeance of the Moon Knight, or Uncanny X-Force, Alex Medellin from Image's Elephantmen, which shares the strong, painted atmosphere with his "Robochrist" entry in this collection, and Pascual Alixe from Marvel's Electric Ant miniseries. If that was not enough, world-renowned fantasy artist Ciruelo, the late Carlos Meglia, and Eisner Award winner Jose Ladronn also share strips with Jodorowsky.
Along with Granov's work on "Masters of Destiny" and Ciruelo's "The Alchemical Egg," the Jodorowsky-Ladronn contribution "Tears of Gold" is perhaps the most compelling and also disturbing of all the stories. Deeply personal for Jodorowsky, as revealed in his short introduction to the piece, "Tears of Gold" lays bare the horrors of unrestricted greed and exploitation, particularly of the young and seemingly defenseless. Ladronn brilliantly captures the lecherous nature of the family members toward Dominguito, which at times reflects the passionate digital lighting techniques of Jamie Grant on All Star Superman and the demented characterizations that only Frank Quitely's line art can often convey.
Audiences familiar with 2000AD will immediately find solace in this text; yet the book also succeeds as a solid introduction for those not familiar with either the anthologized narrative format or even Jodorowsky's writing. In fact, educators utilizing graphic novels in the classroom would be hard-pressed to find a better source of original science fiction tales than Screaming Planet, which would serve nicely in a comparative, pedagogical format alongside Rebellion's numerous 2000AD collections or the 24Seven volumes distributed by Image Comics.-- Nathan Wilson