Barbarella is one of those properties I suspect many readers have heard of, but don’t really understand. Basically put, it’s the perfect property for comics because it can attract new and old fans alike.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Earth’s star-crossed daughter is back! When Barbarella wanders into a war zone, the theocratic rulers of Parosia arrest and imprison her. A prison break is brewing, but now that she knows what the Parosians do to their own citizens Barbarella decides to make this fight her own…
Why does this matter?
This is sci-fi with an adult twist and that’s something you can’t get most weeks in comics. It’s also a new property by Dynamite who tends to go all-in with the series that pleases fans.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The hero enters the fray.
Mike Carey and Kenan Yarar open this book with an alien culture run by a madman. There are clearly some issues with faith and belief as the people all agree in an authoritarian society where sex, swearing, and anything bad is off limits. They of course enslave folks, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Carey weaves in some interesting ideas about sexuality and freedom throughout this story told with a sci-fi slant that suits the character. Barbarella has always been the sex bomb who brings peace and while it could be perceived as exploitation, the previous incarnations, and Carey’s writing here, continues to use it to parody and reflect on the dangers of real world social problems.
As the story progresses you get a good sense of who Barbarella is as she pushes those around her to fight back or to be true to themselves and their desires. The government may say a vagina is evil, but Barbarella implores them to realize it’s not just the organ, but your spirit and self that crave the love sex instills in us. It’s never too preachy and instead reads like a war cry from a hero rather than a sermon.
The art by Yarar does a good job conveying the space scenes, the alien world, and Barbarella herself. There’s nudity in the book, but done in a tasteful way (the skin tight pants do convey the opposite). In a key double page layout, Barbarella stands trial and Yarar draws male and female embraces amongst clouds which help give this world’s point of view a strong sense of stupidity.
He is scanning exactly what you think he’s scanning.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The art can look a little stiff, especially in how the characters stand and move. Many scenes take place inside, reducing the overall look of the world to flat surfaces, which is a shame. As a whole I never got a sense of this world’s look.
In a key scene of revolution, Carey has Barbarella implore her slave mates to go nuts and sex it up, which left me a bit perplexed. First of all, aren’t there robots to stop such behavior? Second of all, with their vaginas removed how does this work? I understand the point of loving each other even without genitals, but it’s not conveyed clearly how these women are enjoying each other. It’s also strange they all just agree to go full orgy on each other. I guess Barbarella has strong sway over the women?
Is It Good?
Barbarella is a tricky series as it weaves sex into a story about peace, freedom, and self discovery. This first issue helps sell that aspect, but is slightly clunky in its execution of it. That said, there’s nothing like this on the stands. Barbarella is a sex bomb that can save us all.