Taarna #1 (Heavy Metal)
Where do I even begin?
We spoke about Heavy Metal Magazine back in our Atomahawk pre/review. From there:
As the Comics Code Authority began to lose power, companies like Dark Horse Comics rose up to tackle mature stories. Marvel and DC both flirted with mature storytelling of their own, but they tended to veer away from anything too graphic. Dark Horse, likewise, kept from going too far from the fold, while Mad and Cracked turned to parody and politics. Only Eerie kept to the base statement of horror, standing alone until 1977.
That’s the year that Heavy Metal Magazine started bucking every trend.
They did high brow science fiction, absurd fantasy, vicious satire, all with an undercurrent of sexuality that was verboten pretty much everywhere else. They published serialized comic stories from wherever they could get them, aiming for weird quality and a feel steeped in metal music aesthetic. It was awesome and hard not to get hooked by this weird mix of, well, everything.
Understand, there was nothing else like this: they did psychologically driven smut and paired it with an illustrated version of Paradise Lost, mingled artists like Walt Simonson and H.R. Giger and Milo Manara.
I’m quoting myself because I need you to have context and I need you to understand: these same people did an animated movie. Released in 1981, it was an anthology that ran the gamut of science fiction to fantasy, touching on everything that made the magazine great. It introduced us to new characters and concepts, climaxing with a short animated story called Taarna.
Taarna is based on a series of wordless comics called Arzach that were originally published in 1975, a good two years before Heavy Metal Magazine would be a thing. They’re worth hunting down and flipping through, full of strange pacing and born of the legendary Jean Giraud, who you might know better as Moebius – a figure who had just as much influence on the medium as the likes of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Arzach is gorgeously rendered, a brooding tale about a warrior riding a strange pterodactyl-thing through the cosmos, righting wrongs, investigating evil, and smiting evil-doers. Taarna had the last of the Arzach warriors called to avenge an atrocity committed by a people twisted by a great evil. She did what was needed, sacrificing herself to destroy that evil – or so she thought.
We’ll come back to that in a moment. First, check out the incredibly NSFW trailer for the Heavy Metal movie and then for the love of Jack, go and see it if you haven’t already:
The device the movie uses to frame itself is that the evil was not destroyed – a small sliver of it escaped and has been haunting a young girl after killing her family. At the end, though, when the evil is preparing to finish what it started, the pterodactyl-thing appears and the girl becomes Taarna, finally vanquishing the evil and riding her beast into space to continue her journey.
And here we are, at the beginning of this comic: an immortal warrior riding a dinosaur through space to avenge injustice. Any of that would get me excited about this, but then you toss in the mad genius writering of Alex de Campi and the deft pencils of Stephane Roux and you’re in for something that cannot and should not be resisted. This is going to be incredible, so whatever you do – do not miss this.