By Alexandro Jodorowsky and José Ladrönn
Final Incal demonstrates that love is the ultimate purifier; a force that can cleanse, renew and revitalize. From the beautiful ashes of the events of The Incal – a spiraling examination of humanity’s contradictions and potential – the witless, eternal witness, John Difool, embraces beauty and truth to finally remove the tail from the serpent’s mouth. As Alexandro Jodorowsky elegantly brings his renowned saga to a close, which began decades ago in collaboration with the legendary Moebius, the love he has instilled into this final effort is on full display. And sweet Orh, what a display it is. José Ladrönn injects new life into the visuals of what was already unquestionably a classic and makes every page of Final Incal an incomparably sublime, visceral experience. Together the vigorous discharge of Jodorowsky and Ladrönn’s imagination and talent creates a fever dream of a book, one that simultaneously invigorates and encumbers the boundaries of your senses. It is nothing short of a masterpiece of creativity. It is the artistic spirit incarnate, where things are created and then recreated from one panel to the next. And, of course, it is weird as hell.
It begins anew where The Incal started and ended, with the “hero” plummeting towards the depths of City Shaft. A virus threatens to lay waste to all biological beings; to literally eat away what makes us human. This carrion plague serves as the literal manifestation of the greater battle between an impossibly black force known as the Benthacodon and the concentrated universal life force of the “white meca-mutant” Elohim. John Difool enters the Mother Tree via the vegetable vagina, is evolved into a more perfect version of himself only to come face to face with even more perfected facets of his being, fights and befriends mutating space pirates, hunts and rescues his estranged love Luz, partakes in an organic rebellion and then…you know what? It doesn’t matter.
Trying to tie together the string of events in Final Incal (or any of the Jodoverse stories, really) into a coherent, linear plot is indeed a fool’s errand. The joy of experiencing this stunning book is in letting go of the standard methodical thought processes of ingesting media and giving yourself over fully to the ethereal journey that is waywardly navigating this world. John Difool was initially introduced as a hapless detective in a sci-fi world, a cowardly Jake Gittes if you will, where events happened to him and not because of him. Jodorowsky almost begs the reader to take the same approach as he explores humanity’s basest desires, flaws, and aspirations through a prism of unfiltered science fiction curiosity. It would seem as though Jodorowsky himself was unable to quell the tidal wave of ideas crashing onto the page at a blistering pace if it wasn’t done so damn well. Through it, all, this truly bonkers metaphysical space opera takes you by the hand and guides you through the chaos with a reassuring whisper. There’s never a sense of actual danger, only a sense of wonderment as to what comes next. This ability to capture and harness imagination instead of by-the-book comic storytelling is a testament to how special, how necessary, all of The Incal stories are. And yet, that is not the reason to buy this particular volume. When all is said and done, the reason Final Incal should adorn your shelf is José Ladrönn.
Jodorowsky did indeed intend for Moebius to finish what they started and that aborted project, titled After the Incal, is collected here as well. Moebius only completed the opening chapter before leaving due to his failing health. It’s a strange beast, one to be gawked at and picked apart. Much like the character of Difool, Moebius’ art seemed to evolve by devolving. Finding greater complexity in simplicity, his later work is a far cry from the hyper detail of Blueberry, but still a master class in cartooning. And yet, After the Incal (what little of it there is) pales in comparison to what Ladrönn ultimately delivers with Final Incal. Honestly? It’s a revelation. Some artists’ work, Moebius included, can be heralded for looking almost effortless in its composition, but not here. José Ladrönn makes art look impossibly difficult. Nothing is vague, nothing is hinted at. Instead, there is a level of detail that is awe-inspiring. No matter how wide a shot nor how many intricately crafted textured buildings or beings envelop a page, nothing is left askew. That tiny dot in the distance? Clearly, it’s Deepo, Difool’s constant concrete companion. That little, tiny bubble emanating from a puddle? Obviously, that’s the remnant arm of a child recently decomposed by the bio-phage virus. Despite the grandiose themes of birth and rebirth, Ladrönn grounds all the satirical new-age concepts spilling forth from Jodorowsky’s mind in the most humanistic fashion. There’s a darkness and a real sense of grit even when exploring the porcelain-clean expanses of non-reality. It’s heavy, almost cumbersome in it’s delivery, but in a way that makes you feel like a child holding open a picture book twice its size. This may be Jodorowsky’s baby, but Final Incal is undeniably the adopted child of Ladrönn.
If this all sounds a bit hyperbolic and abstract, it’s because this is one of those works that simply cannot be appropriately distilled into a review. It’s far too grand and something that quite literally needs to be seen and held in order to be appreciated as it was intended. Will you have any idea what is going on? Maybe, but if (and when) you don’t, you won’t care. There’s a great deal more to be extracted if you’ve read the previous chapters, specifically why it is this particular John Difool that was chosen as a savior, but there’s more than enough to marvel at for the uninitiated. Jodorowsky’s chaotic reflection on the human condition has rarely been a positive one, but it was never a hopeless view. Sure, “love conquers all” is often an eye-rolling conclusion, but in Final Incal it is an affirmation of what it means to create, to make something from nothing. What that something is, needs to be seen to be believed.