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Metal Hurlant #1 By Matt Martin
Humanoids Publishing – Various (w/a)
Recently, while reviewing The Filth, I made reference to Warren Ellis’ once-common rant about “mad, beautiful ideas.” At the time, I used the quote because I felt that Morrison, in The Filth, had foregone the beautiful part in favor of simply doubling up on the mad quotient. However, the quote applies here as well, since the typical product released by Humanoids is the very embodiment of what Ellis was getting at (or, at least, it’s what I feel he meant by it). And while Metal Hurlant is not the greatest effort the company has put forth, it is a rare thing to find an anthology series that is not only commercially successful but also highly entertaining.
A note for the uninformed, a legion of which I was a member prior to reading this book: Metal Hurlant began in 1974 and was the European anthology from which the legendary American book Heavy Metal took its cues. It ceased production in 1987, but was resurrected nearly fifteen years to the day when it was released last summer. With that in mind, any familiarity with Heavy Metal, in either serialized or animated form, gives the reader a leg up in regards to what to expect from Metal Hurlant (which, incidentally, means “screaming metal” in French).
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The opening issue of this new rendition of Metal Hurlant has a well-thought out format to it. In addition to the eye-catching paintings on both the front and back covers and the quality paper- and cover-stock, the editorial staff has mixed both American and European creators, stand-alone and serialized stories.
The opening story by Alexandro Jodorowsky (w), Marc Riou and Mark Vigouroux (a) sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is a glimpse of a world entirely unlike our own, a cinematic tour through an alien landscape, narrated by an unseen protagonist (who is quite literally the very core of the planet, enraged by the environmental rape of its body) and with an ending that twists just enough to provoke thought, or at the very least, raise an eyebrow.
Other stories include a werewolf tale by Kurt Busiek, a piece of primitive fantasy by Spanish newcomers Portela and Das Pastoras, and the beginnings of a serialized dystopian future epic by Jodorowsky and Fred Beltran. They are, overall, a mixed bag, but generally of sufficient quality to warrant the $3.95 cover price. However, if one thread can connect them all, it is that the art in each short piece is nothing short of stunning (though each story boasts a different style).
The one seemingly mismatched story is smack in the middle of the issue, a piece of slice-of-life fluff by Pierre Wazem. The short itself is interesting and drawn in an Andi Watson sort of style, but simply seems to stick out like a sore thumb amidst a company of science fiction and fantasy stories. It’s just like PBS taught us: one of these things is not like the others.
And the end of the day, Humanoids provides a valuable service for the comics industry by acting as an outlet for the release of European works that otherwise might go entirely unnoticed by the American consumer (as opposed to being mostly unnoticed in favor of another X-Men related title, as those works appear to be now). Metal Hurlant itself is exceptional in that anthology series are few and far between. Finding one that maintains a high standard of quality is even more rare, as the temptation to simply use filler to take up space must be overwhelming.
As a side note, I’m unaware of whether or not this initial offering is still available for your local retailer to reorder through Diamond. However, it can be found at finer online retailers, like the ever-useful Mars Import (www.marsimport.com).