2001-06-20

Dune it again.Well, I had high hopes for a trade paperback that came out last month. The Metabarons: Path of the Warrior collects issues #1-5 of the Metabaron comic book series from Humanoids Publishing–a company whose books usually blow me away. Written by Alexandro Jodorowsky, beautifully illustrated by Juan Gimenez, the Metabaron series is a fan favorite–there’s even a Metabaron role playing game.

Turns out it’s a fun enough tale, a star-spanning sci-fi epic full of space battles, treachery, and grim observations about what it means to be a warrior. What dragged the book down for me was the obvious lifting of ideas and situations from Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune.

First, there’s the setting: both stories take place in a distant future where a powerful empire rules far-flung star systems administered by feudal lords. The Metabarons, like the House of Atreides in Dune, are a family of mid-level royals who fight for the empire, for survival, and for personal honor.

Then there’s a number of parallel details:

  • A rare, mysterious substance of galactic importance sometimes controlled by the protagonists (The Atreides have melange, which enables you to see the future, kind of; The Metabarons have epyphite, which enables you to defy gravity.)
  • A pseudo-religious cabal of females who develop special powers though training and who use these powers to further their political ends (The Bene Gesserit in the universe of Dune, the Shabda-oud in the Meta-verse.)
  • An initiate of this female cabal who is ordered to mate with one of the protagonists to produce a child of a specific gender, but who disobeys and produces a son instead (Lady Jessica in Dune is ordered to produce a girl; Honorata in the Metabarons is ordered to produce a hermaphrodite.)
  • The child of this rebel mother is somehow bound to the rare, mysterious substance (Paul Atreides sucks up a lot of melange and becomes the next emperor; little Metabaron Aghnar gets injected with epyphite before birth and becomes permanently weightless.)

You get the picture–The Metabarons is a comic book Dune minus the sand. I hope some of these Meta-fans get around to reading Herbert’s book. Jodorowsky did not improve on the original.

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