Written by Alejandro Jodorowsky | Art by Nicolos Fructus | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Hardback, 56pp
Alejandro Jodorowsky is something of a cult hero it seems. A man of many talents, he is known for his work as a film and theatre director, an actor, a poet and musician, a screenwriter, and even as a spiritual mystic! Alongside that impressive CV, he actually has a very respectable background in comics going back to the mid-1960′s, viewing comics as valid an art form as film and music. Known for being somewhat avant-garde, eccentric even, I did wonder what would be waiting for me in the pages of Showman Killer: Volume 1…
He didn’t disappoint. The story begins with the visit of a sperm collector to a prison planet, a pretty unique opening in my book. This is comic book science fiction written as literary science fiction, in the Frank Herbert vein. We are initially treated to the origin of Showman Killer, as a disgruntled scientist extracts sperm from a condemned violent criminal, impregnates a comatose woman with it, and then takes and raises the resulting baby, using the genetics of a killer father and noble mother to breed a top assassin. Once he achieves adulthood, after a childhood in which the ‘qualities’ of greed and aggression were instilled into him, he is further ‘improved’ by his scientist father who gives him the ability to morph into superhuman form by saying the trigger word ‘show’.
As is often the case, the creation then turns on the master. Intended to serve his creator, Showman Killer reminds him that he has been taught to serve no one, and kills his ‘father’. He turns down a powerful role serving the Omnimonarch to become an assassin for hire, working only for himself, something he does for many years. Hired by the Omnimonarch to find his enemies, his new mission brings him into contact with a mysterious woman, and perhaps events that will shape him into a different from the one he is now. That’s a tease though for another time, and Volume 2
This is very stylised science fiction, with plenty of sex and violence liberally thrown around. Very dark in tone, though with a dash of black humour here and there to slightly lighten proceedings. No characters are particularly likeable, nor are they supposed to be, though Showman Killer is a classic anti-hero; a victim of circumstances beyond his control, but someone who through his journey will become a better man, if not a perfect one. The dialogue is reasonable, though has some lines that made me laugh, although I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be laughing. As the script is a translation, I’m not sure we can blame just Jodorowsky for that. Some of the Herbert-esque dialogue does get a bit wearing though.
The art is pretty good, Fructus delivering what you would expect from European-style comic book art, and working to such a hyper-stylized script. The painted artwork is deliberately kept quite subdued and murky in the main, making the appearance of red’s , blues and purple’s very effective when they are added to some panels. He draws good figures and environments, and some individual panels are very nice. Good art, without being great.
At its heart, Showman Killer is a routine space opera. Yes, Jodorowsky has ramped up the sex and violence, and homaged nicely the work of Frank Herbert, but it is still just the story of an anti-hero on a quest to discover his true self. With added blood. Will this sustain a narrative through several volumes? I am not sure. Enjoy it for what it is, rather than what it wants you to think it is, and you won’t be disappointed.
Showman Killer Vol.1: Heartless Hero is out now from Titan Comics