Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Madwoman of the Sacred Heart by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius

Twenty-some years ago, it was reading a bunch of random Moebius books that convinced me that French comics were all about philosophical bullshit. I've since been convinced otherwise, through the work of Jason and Trondheim and Kerascoet and Vehlmann and a number of others, but damn if this dull turd of a book didn't cut through all of that good stuff with a new load of weapons-grade bullshit, and almost changed my mind back again.

Moebius is not solely responsible for Madwoman of the Sacred Heart. He was just the artist this time out, so he's only responsible for what's good about this book: the clarity of line and real space that the first two-thirds of the book has (before it starts become a cramped mess of way too many small panels stuffed with far too many stupid words). The script here comes from screenwriter and international goofball Alexandro Jodorowsky, well-known for the quality of his philosophical bullshit across several media.

As usual with French comics philosophical bullshit, there's a bunch of religious loonies who talk far too much about things no one is interested in reading about and the one supposedly normal guy at the middle of it all who gets dragged along, presumably to be the audience's view into this "exciting" and "revelatory" and "mind-expanding" warmed-over '60s merde. Unfortunately, the one sane guy in Madwoman is the deeply unlikable Alan Mangel, a massive prick of a philosophy professor who starts the book with a cult-like student following and spends most of it with a diarrhea problem. (No, I am not joking. Much of his dialogue is dedicated to informing the reader that he has shit his pants once again. Lo! How transgressive is Jodorowsky!)

One of Mangel's students decides she's the reincarnation of the mother of John the Baptist -- or something roughly congruent to that -- and that Mangel is the destined father. This of course means there must also be a Joseph (a local pusher) and Mary (daughter of a South American drug baron, currently institutionalized either because she's actually crazy or her father thinks she is), and those four form our merry band of completely insane people, whom the reader is forced to follow for the entire book.

The crazy people aren't interestingly crazy: they're French crazy, which means they make long speeches about the way the universe works and the power of love and their place in the scheme of things and other things that will cause an American reader to lose consciousness rapidly. Even worse, their pseudo-philosophical bullshit seems to be right within the context of the story, inasmuch as it can be understood at all. (Which is not very far.)

So nutty things happen, and the crazy women talk too much. Then more nutty things happen, Mangel shits his pants, and they talk too much again. Repeat for nearly two hundred pages.

Just when you think you've got the rhythm down, we drop into the third section of Madwoman -- I think this was originally three French albums, though this 2011 Humanoids edition doesn't explain that in the slightest -- which is cramped and awkward, and, if this is even possible, more boring and stultifying than the first two. Perhaps Jodorowsky took a look at his notes, realized he still had eighty or ninety pages of philosophical bullshit to cram into fifty comics pages, and told Moebius to draw smaller. Whatever happened, suddenly there are twice as many panels to a page, and the pages are duller -- the one strong point Madwoman had up to that point was Moebius's layouts and art, so clearly that could not be allowed to stand.

This book is the kind of thing that makes you stupider as you read it: it not only wastes your time, but actively destroys brain cells along the way. I cannot in good conscience recommend it for any purpose; the coated paper would make it unsuitable even to use to start a fire. Moebius has done better work -- his "Blueberry" westerns are particularly good, and some of the comics he wrote himself are only slightly tinged with philosophical bullshit. I can't speak for Jodorowsky, but I hope not everything he touches turns out this bad; it would be difficult to sustain a career if that were the case.

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