What is it about Jodorowsky that draws people so? For years I have been a fan of his work, his film Holy Mountain being one of my favorite pieces of cinema, yet personally I cannot place what it is about this madman that people have fallen in love with. From years ago doing live theater with Arrabal, to comics with Moebius, to his film I mentioned earlier being bankrolled by former-Beatle John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono, the man has worked in every field of art drawing much attention. Anyone who has read Heavy Metal magazine has come across a comic he has written. Certainly there are haters out there, people who feel he’s exploitative, a pure sensationalist in much of his work for the most part, and not really an artist at all. While their arguments can have a few valid points depending on perspective, Jodorowsky still is not as exploitative in his work when compared to something like the manga Battle Royale or the likes. In fact Bouncer: Raising Cain, written under Jodorowsky’s pen, at times can be a very brutally violent western comic to read, yet there is nothing that feels exploitative in this harsh landscape of wild west savages, and truthfully Jodorowsky and Boucq’s Bouncer series is the best western comic I have read in a long time.
Bouncer: Raising Cain is an epic revenge story, smartly told by Jodorowsky and with fantastic art by Boucq. Starting shortly after the American Civil War, 15-year-old Seth watches in anger as an ex-Confederate platoon beheads his father, and then rapes and kills his mother in search of something from years ago between Seth’s father Blake and their leader Captain Ralston. Armed with his Dad’s old shooting irons, Seth heads off to the nearby Inferno Saloon in town to look for help and figure out his revenge. There he meets the Bouncer, a one-armed cowboy who works as the bouncer of the saloon, and possesses great fighting skills and gun-slinging abilities. Turns out fate is at play, and Bouncer is Seth’s uncle, as well as both half-brother to obviously not just Seth’s Dad, but also his Dad’s murderer, Captain Ralston. Bouncer begins to train Seth on the guns for revenge, and explains not only what happened to his arm, but also their assorted family skeletons, and that what Ralston wanted was a huge gem called the eye of Cain which they hid some years ago, a gem worth millions. In the mean time, in town a new teacher named Deborah shows up who seems a little too radical for the town leaders. As fate then would have it again, Seth in his down time goes to her class only to save her life after some crooked criminals are hired to teach her a lesson. This very quickly leads to Seth saving the day, but being knocked out by a fever for a few weeks. The result when he awakens is finding Deborah, who has fallen for young Seth he saved her life, and running into the toughest twist of his life – Deborah’s father being Ralston. Does he kill him and get revenge but chance losing her? I won’t go any further, because already I started giving away a ton of great w-t-f moments, but the ending is epic.
Jodorowsky develops each of the characters to a tee, so we never feel short changed on any of them. The one-armed Bouncer is just a cool character moving the story, giving us part revenge-western and part teacher-teaches-student fun. The book is well paced, and when it needs to pick up the pace at the end, it does and it flies. He has written a nice blend of action here amongst the dark backdrop of this harsh landscape. My only complaint with the book itself is Deborah’s teaching of our crimes against Native Americans. Yes it is historically accurate the events she mentions, and yes I know she is suppose to be this radical teacher in the eyes of the town, but it is completely unrealistic for a teacher to have that kind of knowledge in this time period, so wag of the finger for being implausible there. Europeans love writing about the cruelty of our slave-trade and our crimes against Native Americans, so it’s no surprise it has crept up here in Jodorowsky’s work. I suppose it’s no different from America’s fascination with writing about the Nazi Holocaust, but I still feel like when compared to rest of the story’s elements, it came out of left field. That said, to only have one wag of the finger in terms of writing still makes 98% of it damn impressive.
Boucqs art is just great. Intense fights: check. Sweeping landscapes: check. The colors he uses combined with his art when melded together bring a grit that is perfect for this piece of comic art. Boucq also draws great characters. His guys look like guys. They are not pretty boys, in fact some of them are ugly as hell. Also his women look like women; Deborah is a beautiful woman, but she’s not a Playboy bunny sex kitten, she’s just a real looking woman and Boucq’s drawings manage to capture the beauty in that.
So who will like this? Well, we can start by saying that if you’re a fan of Jodorowsky’s writing it’s a safe bet. It doesn’t get into the religious philosophical aspect of his famed western El Topo, but is more of a straight revenge tale with little oddities and coolness tossed in between. Going off that, if you like westerns, this is your bag, as well. Finally, if you like Boucq’s artwork, you can’t go wrong here, it looks gorgeous.
Bouncer: Raising Cain is out now.
A copy of this comic was provided by the publisher for review.