Son of the Gun

Son of the Gun
Alternative editions:
Son of the Gun graphic novel review
Alternative editions:
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Humanoids - 978-1-59465-096-3
  • Release date: 1995-2000
  • English language release date: 2004
  • UPC: 9781594650963
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Crime, Drama, European

It’s not obvious from the seemingly unconnected events of the first chapter, but Son of the Gun is a story of a man seeking redemption for sins past. We first see him being crucified in the South American desert, a man resembling Jesus with long hair and beard dressed in a simple robe. From there we head back to a baby with a tail abandoned in a rubbish tip, found by a dwarf, and given the gun the dwarf’s just stolen to suckle. Forwarding again, we meet the newly christened Juan Solo and the ordeals he undergoes to become one of the dozen bodyguards employed by a corrupt politician, each of them deformed in their own way. In service Juan commits appalling crimes without a moment’s consideration, the ultimate product of a kill or be killed world.

Alexandro Jodorowsky has a prodigious imagination, but setting Son of the Gun in an almost real world serves as a device for locking in what’s sometimes too great a flight of fantasy, while the occasions when it seeps out make for exciting interludes. For instance, having a character commit suicide by blowing himself up in a church when feeling betrayed is both distasteful and spectacular. Jodorowsky comments on the endemic corruption of 20th century South American dictatorships, their sordid preoccupations and the fates of those who stood against them, but that’s all secondary to Juan’s bizarre path to redemption.

George Bess can certainly draw, and there’s something of Jordi Bernet about his loose figures, which are great, never stiff, always moving, slouching or jogging, but they’re within panels frequently so densely packed they’re often messy and unappealing. That’s an opinion bolstered by the extraordinary colour work. Bess goes for the exceptionally vivid, and rejoices in the clash of these colours, exaggerating them in the same way Jodorowsky exaggerates reality with his writing. Deserts are burning bright red, or burnished yellow,

Son of the Gun isn’t for everyone. Some will certainly be offended by the content and while there’s a price to be paid, the casual brutality spattered through the opening three chapters is ramped up to unpleasant excess. It reinforces the message of violence begetting violence, but graphically so. Those buying into Jodorowsky’s vision, though, are rewarded with a stylish high octane fantasy not short of religious allegory. Or incest. It’s not a great leap to imagine the resulting Sam Peckinpah or Quentin Tarantino film as there’s a cinematic use of location, particularly over the final chapter during the accounting for the sins of the past. The story doesn’t ring true for a moment, but the entertainment is first rate.

This hardcover collects all four volumes of the story, but Humanoids also issued it spread over two volumes a decade previously.