Few science-fiction artists are as revered as Jean Giraud, AKA Mœbius—a comics legend and a monumental influence on some of cinema's most striking visuals, he's pretty much a Nerd God. Only problem is that here in the States, much of the Frenchman's work has been notoriously tricky—and dangerously expensive—to track down. Walk into any comics shop or video store and it's impossible not to catch a glimpse of something—or, more likely, a whole lot of things—bearing Mœbius' influence, but it's significantly rarer to come across the guy's actual work.
That's changed thanks to the recent publication of The Incal: Classic Collection, in which French publisher Humanoids has collected the entirety of the series Une Aventure de John Difool—written by Alexandro Jodorowsky, illustrated by Mœbius, and assembled in a slick, relatively affordable ($45) hardcover. While dedicated Mœbius hunters have been able to acquire this serialized saga before (it was originally published in six installments, from 1981 to 1988) previous editions have been in that cursed Français nonsense, or have screwed with the original stories' colors, or censored the nudity. Here, restored and remastered, is The Incal's definitive incarnation.
Jodorowsky—the same dude who directed the surreal cult flicks El Topo and The Holy Mountain—crafts a science-fiction story with a massive scope. The Incal stars John Difool, a dimwitted, fairly unlikeable "class 'R' licensed private investigator" in a dystopic far-future. Difool accidentally comes into possession of "The Incal," the most powerful device in the universe. But, as a shiftless nobody who's fond of "fake bourbon" and "homeo-whores," Difool's hardly a trustworthy guardian. Things only get more problematic when every power faction in the universe starts fighting for the Incal. Part space adventure, part drug-addled freakout, part romance, part comedy, and part whatever else you can think of, The Incal juggles everything from paper-thin allusions to Christianity and the Tarot to everyday, run-of-the-mill dialogue like, "I've stabilized these three psychorats! They'll carry us across the Garbage Plains."
Another favorite chunk might be this one: "At the center of the Desert of the Three Commandments stands the huge mass of Ooror, the original motherhill. One hundred twenty million years old, seat of the primordial ovulation and home of the beloved Protoqueen." That's what you're in for, and if you aren't willing to roll with it—Difool's sidekick is a talking bird! An annoying little kid turns into an all-powerful spaceship!—you'll be in for a long haul. In fact, if it were solely up to Jodorowsky, much of this would probably just be goofy and insufferable: Like his sometimes obnoxious films, there's a whole lot of weird crammed in here, and too much of it frequently feels either too simplistic or self-congratulatory to be of much use.
What makes The Incal remarkable, though, is Mœbius' art: Every page of this thing pops and astounds. Few artists can conjure entire worlds, cultures, and crises so powerfully and uniquely, but Mœbius' stunning imagination and graceful, assured line work—sometimes starkly majestic, sometimes frenzied and overwhelming—never ceases to engross and amaze. Even as Jodorowsky's increasingly meta story starts to rattle itself apart, Mœbius' vast futurescapes, bizarre aliens, and thrilling action sequences make The Incal impossible to put down. You've seen this story's pale, sickly imitators countless times already, both in comics and on the big screen—but chances are you've never seen the original like this, vibrant and uncut and gorgeous and great.