Barbarella may be 55 years old, but she is still as sexy as ever. But as was made clear in the first issue, nobody but Barbarella will control her sexuality, her body or her soul. The free-spirited sometimes agent of Earth in the distant future, has found herself on the run from the law on a planet that is run by strict theocratic rulers who are at war with the people of Earth.
Barbarella was first published in 1962 in French comics created by Jean-Claude Forest as an idealised idea of the sexual revolution. She was most famously introduced to American audiences in the 1968 eponymous cult film starring Jane Fonda. She last appeared in comics in a 1982 run in Heavy Metal.
Mike Carey and Kenan Yarar have managed to both update her and make her feel modern while retaining that core of sexuality available on her terms. It is difficult to manage this twist but Eisner-nominated Carey (Lucifer, The Unwritten) has done this before with greater (X-Men Legacy) and lesser (Ultimate Fantastic Four) success. Barbarella so far, remains sexually appealing and bold but refuses to be objectified even though that is the goal of the religious authorities on this planet.
While the plot and twists are important to the story, you should really be picking it up for Turkish artist Yarar’s (Hilal, Vampirella) work. You can see how the society functions with technology accessible by the few and powerful, while most have to make due with severely compromised equipment. Whether the characters are hanging from razor doves above the church bespired city or disguised as nuns at a restaurant that serve them a complimentary pet to be sacrificed to the gods, Yarar imbues every scene with a sense of fantastic reality and a strange but lived in world.
In a way, I am glad that Barbarella has been away from the world of comics for so long. The three decade break in her adventures allows her to be introduced to a new generation almost free from preconceptions. She gets to define herself as she pleases almost despite the adventures she is on. In many ways, that is Barbarella at her core.
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Kenan Yarar
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment