The Incal

Reposting my contribution to the London Graphic Novel Network discussion, which got severely (though fascinatingly) derailed by Adam at the start, but is still worth reading for the (on topic) contributions at the end. I've slightly edited the below to get rid of my internet speak:

Just want to come back to Joel's original frustration with The Incal. Curious thing for me is that (like a lot of Jodo stuff) there is a superabundance of narrative in the book – John DiFool constantly stumbling through quest after quest. And yet it's strangely unsatisfying because (as Joel says) there's no overall structure to these narratives. They are little more than excuses to give Möebius cool things to draw. In fact (if I recall correctly) because things get so convoluted towards the end, Jodo settles for invoking a fourth wall breaking deus ex machina as a way to wrap things up. (I hope I'm not getting this muddled up with Battlestar Galactica...)

That superfluity of narrative at the expense of any ~deeper~ meaning reminds me of Carey / Gross's The Unwritten, or something like Grant Morrison's The Invisibles. I'll grant that other people have gotten something profound out of those comics, but I've found it easiest to engage with them on quite a superficial level – the narrative zooming past in exciting patterns without taking the time to pause, reflect, add significance. Actually, that description isn't always fair – there are individual issues of The Unwritten in particular that lend themselves to close reading and excavation. But a lot of it is just narrative gymnastics for me, and The Incal is no different in that respect.

Which leads me on to think that this sort of hyper-compressed velocity with regard to storytelling is something comics as a form can do quite well. It's partly the strictures of the production process, which doesn't give you the time to write pages of dialogue or the space for embellishments. So your forced to start slicing away at the inessentials and cramming beats into your allotted pages. And why worry, when with an artist like Möebius, you're gonna wanna push him headlong into as many places as possible.

My take on The Incal is that it is Jodo at play. The thing took years and years to make, and throughout he was just firing off ideas without overly worrying about the shape the story will end up having once it's packaged into one volume. This is in marked contrast to The Holy Mountain and particularly The Mole, which are less riotously expansive and more linear – particularly the latter, which I did manage to start digging into for significance. Perhaps the single-minded focus required to direct, design and act in those films was an incentive to add layers under a single plot, rather than just keep adding more and more plot.

The above is a long way of saying that The Incal is fun stuff, but Jodo's masterpieces are found elsewhere.

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