2 out of 5
Moon Face has every aspect of Jodorowsky’s comic fiction you could ask for: supreme, graceful art from Francois Boucq; a fantastically weird and varied cast of characters; a culture created from scratch with its own religions, customs, and proclivities; and his usual tweaked takes on and snipes at politics, social constructs, and sex.
Moon Face was also, apparently, improvised and pseudo-scripted over some twelve years. While Jodo tends to write more from a basis of ideas and concepts than character arcs, and definitely allows whimsy to guide him down certain plotty rabit holes, the loosey goosey construction of this title very much shows: Moon Face is packed with things that never amount to much, and the main figures we follow (the titular Moon Face, and his sorta caretaker Isha) are rather empty. For Moon Face himself, this is rather purposeful, as he’s essentially a blank slate for the world to act on and through, but inserted into a cast that’s equally ungrounded, the way he floats through dangers and magically solves problems never quite feels as mystical, or odd, or humorous, or awe-inspiring as it seems it’s supposed to.
Now, because it is Jodorowsky, this doesn’t stop the book from being imminently readable. While all the weirdness would come across as forced from most writers, Jodo is able to present it as a very natural indulgence, partially because no aspect of his tales ever seems to take place in the real world. Everyone speaks in self-explanatory pitter-patter, and yet the phrasing and bevy of terminology used (the egg-centric culture of Moon Face exists under an Ovarian Regime, or somesuch, and there happen to be a billion little factions of government bodies or rebels with their own verbiage and naming schemes) comes across as tailored to whichever world Jodo happens to be writing within; i.e. his endless variations of universes come packaged with their own, homegrown variations of everything: similar from book to book, sure, but not interchangeable. Combined with the way Boucq sweeps up massive, insane concepts in a flowing, eye-friendly and readable framing and paneling, I never found myself coerced to turn the page.
Moon Face has a puppet government that may or may not be being puppeted by a small trio of power-seeking religious figures, all of whom find themselves challenged by the sudden appearance of the title character, literally dancing while one of the frequently destructive waves that crashes over the island strikes. Isha grabs Moony, and the duo run from army fellers through the undergrounds: through barricades of several gangs; through a splinter culture of fishermen who worship an unconscious woman that was found in the belly of a whale-like creature; and eventually to a brothel where an enormous woman’s ‘services’ are sold by her hunchbacked son. Eventually, he becomes the messiah, and eventually Moon Face uses bullets to make stained glass for a new cathedral which threatens – with faith – the power of the government. You still with me? I’m leaving a lot out.
None of it really matters all that much – not at the beginning, not at the middle, not at the end – which is where this ranks lower amidst Jodorowsky’s prodigious output: while there’s obviously some shades of commentary on all the various official and unofficial bodies and outfits featured, it’s not presented in such a manner that begs any analysis. Rather, Moon Face the book – yes, sure, like the character – just seems to be saying ‘here I am,’ and it’s your call whether or not to experience it. As a Jodo fan, I’m happy to do so, even if it’s a lesser work, but those new to his writing will likely be offput by the tale’s free flowing nature.