COMIC REVIEW: Humanoids' Metal Deluxe Hardcover
Intergalactic warfare & medieval armor take center stage in this sci-fi graphic novel...
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Before their was the fan-favorite Heavy Metal Magazine, which began in 1977, there was the French publication Métal Hurlant. First published in 1974 by Les Humanoïdes Associés, the sci-fi and fantasy magazine's success inspired the publisher to continues to bring hard-hitting, gritty, and violent comics to the marketplace. Now, thanks to the publisher's American counterpart, Humanoids, fans of original sci-fi, fantasy, and hardcore comics can pick up a variety of graphic novels.
Following our reviews of Elias the Cursed and Son of the Gun, this week we're reviewing yet another amazing Humanoids publication; the Metal Deluxe Hardcover.
A 3-chapter tale of intergalactic warfare and espionage between warriors' souls housed in medieval, knight-like armor and an alien race unlike any other, Metal tells a unique tale that's intriguing, violent, emotionally-charged, and action-filled. Emperor Elias, 14th Ruler of the Huron Dynasty (above), leads a restless people spread throughout the galaxy. Thanks to a unique technology which allows a man's consciousness to be projected into "electro-humanic mechanisms" which resemble suits of armor, wars last a very long time since warriors, rulers, and kings can fight - and die - only to return again and again to the battlefield. To remedy this situation and keep the galaxy civil, a government made up of nobles, dukes, and barons meet and diplomatically solve conflicts. Of course, this means the backstabbing and brutality within the ranks is only done without armor.
With a cast of colorful characters ranging from the viscous Count Ordis of the planet Icos and the beautiful Morgan Ravel, Archmarquis of Gammeton (squabbling, below) to the young and impressionable Prince Emmic of Thule (being cleaved in two, above) and the misguided training master Abuh-Ad Salidin, the story features a variety of different perspectives and thus entry points for readers. This not only makes the story more interesting, but also provides readers a way into this galaxy-wide space opera. However, Metal focuses on Emperor Elias' story.
We watch the adventure unfold as the emperor's 10-year old son, Emmic, dons his first suit of armor as a king-to-be, in need of training, patients, and rules (below). And, so much like the young prince, the galaxy's governing body too suffers from a need for guidance and rules. We observe these barons, rulers, governors, and delegates argue and bicker amongst themselves for the upper hand and rightful rule to various planets, space stations, and other holdings. However, when the Prime, an alien force looking to rid the galaxy of waste (and everyone knows how wasteful humanity is!) comes looking to rid the galaxy of humanity, a war council is called and it's up to the nobles and their warriors in armor to battle this new enemy and prevent the annihilation of life.
Metal begins like every other sci-fi story, introducing characters, settings, and conflict through show and tell. However, the story's true moral doesn't begin until the end of chapter 1, when we watch Emperor Elias' betrayal. And with the death of his mortal body, his consciousness becomes trapped inside his battle armor. Now normally in a sci-fi story, this wouldn't be an issue; but readers find there are four rules to using battle armor: the first is as long as a person's mortal body is safe, what happens in armor has no effect on the physical body. Ok...so we've broken that rule. The second rule is the armor must be evacuated within 72 hours, otherwise, the mind rejects the armor. Uh oh, that's trouble for Elias. Third rule, if the armor is destroyed, the link is broken and the warrior's consciousness goes back into the body. Ok...but Elias doesn't have a body - it's dead. Thus, enter the fourth and final rule: if your body is dead, there's no vessel to return to and one faces oblivion. Yeah. Oblivion. That's going to be a tough one to overcome. Now you see how having your mortal body dead and you being stuck in armor could be an issue...
In Chapter 2, readers are introduced to a new setting - Carthicus, the "Wandering Crime Zone" and home to murderers, thieves, and vagabonds. Emperor Elias, in his new tomb, is sent here and found by Tetana, a "circuit monkey" (and an Imperial Journeyman and "Discipline of Blades") who helps Elias find a new life in his new form. Even with his identity hidden, Elias is no less arrogant, strong, or powerful and thus who he is and what's happened to him doesn't remain unnoticed for long. When Elias' identity and what he's become is revealed, the Prime and those working with the evil aliens plot against the rightful ruler of the galaxy, hoping to exterminate him once and for all.
Co-authors Jerrold E. Brown and Paul Alexander do an outstanding job of rolling out a story that features solid progression, always hinting at possibilities and providing logical next steps, yet surprises along the way. For every conniving character working behind the scenes to end the reign of Emperor Elias (above), there's another ready and willing to sacrifice for Elias as well. Likewise, for every page of dramatic character development, there's another filled with non-stop battle and action (below).
Thankfully, co-artists Jackson "Butch" Guice and Roman Surzhenko are more than up to the task of bringing to life the harsh, intergalactic war of Metal and the many fighters which make up the battles' heroes, villains, and casualties. The character designs are all very well done, with a solid sense of futuristic technology and yet a medieval flair that's reminiscent of a 1500's period piece.
Likewise, the pair's realistic method of drawing and inking give the readers plenty to enjoy. From dynamic battle sequences drawn from a variety of angles (first person point of view, overhead, sides scrolling, above) and vast two-page battlefield spreads which give readers a sense of size to tight close-ups which help relay emotion and expansive images of open space, the story's artwork makes the book much more engaging.
My only major criticism about Metal is the story's ending, which seems like the end of a chapter instead of the end of the entire book. One part cliffhanger and one part unresolved conflict, the ending actually made me turn the last page to see what was next, even with the word "END" printed at the bottom. I wanted the story to continue and I personally feel the story needs to continue to properly bring resolution. Sadly, I've yet to see anything about a sequel, so until then, there's an inkling in my brain wondering what's next for Emperor Elias, Prince Emmic, and the Huron Dynasty.
For those fans and collectors who appreciate a beautiful presentation, this deluxe hardcover book is made up of 11 page sections smythe sewn and bound in an attractive white hardcover with red foil on the front and a colorful dust jacket with character artwork on the front and back. As with all smythe sewn books done right, the binding is sturdy and solid and should provide decades of reading pleasure. Plus, thanks to the colorful dust jacket, Metal will look great next to your other hardcovers and TPBs on the shelf.
With plenty of espionage, betrayal, affection, dedication, and intense fighting, Metal will provide fans of sci-fi and fantasy something engaging, entertaining, and emotional. While it's ending leaves somethings to be desired, it's the journey getting there that's most memorable, impressive, and all around gorgeous to behold.
The Metal Deluxe Hardcover is available at fine book sellers, comic shops, and online for a suggested retail price of $29.95.
For more information on Metal and other impressive graphic novels, check out www.Humanoids.com.
- Jess C. Horsley
Last edited by JeffSaylor; 06-28-2012 at 02:58 PM.
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley