Barbarella Holiday Special
Jean-Marc Lofficier (writer), Jose Louis Ruiz Perez (artist, letterer), Brian Wetstein (colourist)
December 5, 2018
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Jolly old St. Nick himself wanted to create a place where children could enjoy the wonders of Christmas, but when his advertising campaign began, the guests who arrived at his Christmas Planet were not what he expected. Now a neutral zone for all kinds of nefarious beings from across the galaxy, the planet exists outside of ZENI law. That doesn’t mean there is no law at all. Everyone is expected to abide by Claus’s rules of neutrality, but when a notable banker winds up dead, it’s up to Barbarella to investigate. Barbarella is no Miss Marple, though, so Claus enlists the reanimated aid of Maxime Saint-Clair, aka The Guardian of the Republic.
Murder on the merry planet means there is a line up of possible suspects that Barbarella and Maxime must question, with each suspect taking the time to repeat, almost word for word, who they are and what they do and their relationship to the victim just a few pages after their introduction. Turns out, repeated wording is the key to solving this mystery, so pay attention, since the logic leaps from moment to moment that eventually get us to the obvious murderer are dramatic, but not particularly fun and interesting. I expected a lot more campiness from a Barbarella story, but instead of silly fun, I found these 46 pages to be very dull and disappointing, with even the monstrous action sequences failing to spark my interest.
I appreciated the notion of taking Barbarella back to her French roots with the introduction of Haxagon Comics’ popular French hero, and Lofficier gives them both occasional moments of French dialogue to remind us of that. Otherwise, we don’t get to learn much about the latter as he tries to navigate the investigation and his sudden return to life into a completely unfamiliar world and time.
Barbarella is considered a mature title, though, based on this particular issue, I have no idea why when other Dynamite titles that feature violence and the occasional side book are still considered “Teen+.” That includes Red Sonja, who is just as likely to chop of heads or hop in bed, depending on what desire she needs to satisfy at a given moment. Barbarella’s sexuality might be considered mature, but especially here, it is ridiculously tame, featuring a few shadowed panels that speak to her desire and intent, but are quickly interrupted by the proceedings.
Barbarella is a fairly recent addition to Dynamite’s ranks. Though I haven’t read the ongoing series, I’d like to think it does a better job of exploring this iconic character with stories that aren’t afraid to have a lot more fun and actually earn that “mature” title.
The art is particularly disappointing, given how interesting the cover is. Perez draws the characters in stiff, clunky, awkward poses that are a distraction, and his women suffer greatly from same face syndrome. It’s no surprise that one female character whose hair should be white is accidentally made Barbarella blond by Wetstein — and none of the team noticed the mistake, according to Lofficier in his commentary.
Overall, this is a premise that had a lot of potential — and I’d like to see a lot more of Claus’ Christmas Planet — but the story and art fell flat.