cover image Barbarella: Collector’s Edition

Barbarella: Collector’s Edition

Jean-Claude Forest, adapted from the French by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Humanoids, $79.95 (72p) ISBN 978-1-59465-092-5

Reviewed by Steve Bunche. This handsome hardcover edition returns Forest’s groundbreaking heroine to readers, with an excellent new adaptation from the French original by DeConnick (Captain Marvel). Although the titular character is best known from the 1968 Jane Fonda movie adaptation, the comics version of Barbarella resonates as an early example of the fully empowered female comics protagonist—a woman indisputably in charge of herself and the bizarre and dangerous predicaments she finds herself in. More of a far-flung fantasy story than straight sci-fi, this first volume follows Barbarella’s adventures on the planet Lythion, where she encounters all manner of aliens, robots, and the very unexpected—Forest admittedly made it all up with no preplanning. As a result, the narrative rambles all over the place but finally gels midway through, at the point where Barbarella finds herself on the outskirts of the wicked city of Sogo, within whose walls a “new perversion is invented every day.” The cult classic film adaptation cribbed most of its plot from this segment, and it is the real heart of the graphic novel. While the comic, out of print since 1968, was once infamous for its sexual content, the many couplings engaged in by Barbarella come off now as more quaint than titillating, with Forest’s sparse, brushy line work lending the proceedings a dreamlike fairy-tale quality fused with space opera tropes. Those coming to this new edition expecting the movie will also likely be surprised by the marked differences between the character of Barbarella in the source material and her Fonda iteration. Here Barbarella is not the doe-eyed innocent to whom physical sex is a new and joyous revelation; instead, she is a self-assured and very tough woman who clearly does not hesitate to kill her adversaries when necessary, and whose sexuality is quite playful and aggressive. The whole story displays a very Gallic sense of eroticism and whimsy. DeConnick’s superb new English adaptation preserves Forest’s native French flavor and gives Barbarella and the rest of the cast a sense of warmth and likability that was absent in the original English edition. This deluxe, oversized edition showcases Forest’s artistry in a volume suitable for serious collectors. (Sept.)