4 out of 5
Man, this is so French – although Jodo is Spanish, right? – and it’s so Jodorowsky.
I’m a bit confused on the Anibal 5 timeline: this was Alejandro’s first comic? Because if so, this is an insanely expansive first effort, and bears no hallmarks of amateur comic writing. If anything, its willingness to fall back on sexcapade humor makes it a little less open-ended than the later Jodorowsky epics. But besides the written skills, this does not, at all, look like something from the 60s or 70s… At all. So either Jodo and artist George Bess were able to reach forward 40 or 50 years to grab the awareness to create something that would slot in with the best of modern day European comics, or we’re dealing with a couplea’ geniuses. Or/and Humanoids knocked it out of the park with the reproduction of this stuff. Or – highly possible – I’m misunderstanding my timeline indeed and this was written yesterday.
Update: I am misunderstanding (yes – you can all stop shouting that that was inevitable); the Humanoids’ website reports this book as a “reworking” of the original, which was also drawn by a different artist. So a remake, Humanoids style? Still, we’ll assume the general gist hasn’t changed, and the package is still quite delicious, with the cast-shot cover and “Jodorowsky & Bess” banner a superb alert to the reader that You Should Be Interested In This; the hardcover binding with the perfect 1/3″ or so indent to allow for leaving the book open on any page without cracking the spin so as to appreciate Bess’ glorious art, which is printed on clean and thick pages. Plus: stitched-in bookmark.
So Anibal 5 collects 5 “missions” of the titular android, who looks like a Hollywood muscleman from the 70s – broad-shouldered but a bulbous waist – mixed with the pursed lips and flippable hair of a surfer-type. He often wears only bikini briefs, ’cause duh, and can also sometimes shoot killing sperm, ensaring farts, rockets from fingertips, etc. Benefits of being an android, and one which apparently requires sex with Marilyn Monroe clones in order to recharge between tasks. …Tasks which are doled out to him by the European Defense Organization, which we don’t need to know anything about except that it exists, and that is constantly plunging Anibal into ridiculous scenarios in order to save the world from ridiculous things; these ridiculous things explained simply cannot have justice done to them with simple words. Let it suffice to say that if you’ve experienced any of Jodo’s comic worlds, you know to expect non-stop inventiveness that’s equal parts ridiculous, hilarious, and fascinating. Alejandro has the gift of spinning up massive worlds within panels, and the confidence in presenting them such that you can barrel past all sorts of “but what about X?” questions, swept up in the momentum and satisfied that, somewhere between the pages, Jodorowsky knows the answers to all. This sets him apart from more boastful world-constructors, who feel the need to stop and point out their creations along the way – Jodo is happy to let the amazing artists with which he works, like Bess, populate the world through sight and sound – as well as modern-day masters of this style, like Morrison, who often uses his setup to underline a particular concept (which, with Grant, is always the interconnectedness of things). For Alejandro, the story is the point, which is often why these things don’t have satisfying conclusions. Such is the case as Anibal as well, as the “missions” – which see the EDO abusing their android by transmuting him into various other bodies, including animals – get increasingly more ridiculous until you can’t help but get knocked around a bit by those “what about…?” queries, too many being juggled and jostled about – and so we just end things with an orgasm and “Anibal Five then retired and was elected governor of California,” yuk yuk. It’s a funny cop-out, but a bit anticlimactic, even if the orgasm involves explosions.
The sex-romp stuff, making this an adult book, is in such glorious good fun that it somehow never feels sleazy. We’re not wallowing in slavering male ogling, either in art or story: Anibal 5 is fueled by sex, and so here’s some big-boobed babes who giggle and happen to like having sex with a well-muscled, no-downtime man. Meanwhile his EDO taskmasters – twins and bookkeepers Martin and Martain, the obese communicator Pinker Typer and his disturbingly child-like and constantly shirtless consort Enanita (who might be the boss) – argue over mission parameters and the budget, waiting for Anibal to get done with his allotted sex time. It’s frank, and fast-paced, and “innocent” in the way that any good 60s / 70s sexcapade is.
If you’ve dug Jodo’s sci-fi comic creations and have an appreciation for fluff, Anibal 5 is the mash-up for you. It might all seem a bit pointless to new readers – which remains the main detraction for Jodo’s writing – but that’s the style, and it only really hits when you get to the last page, because it leaves you wanting more.