Review by Frank Plowright
The Sons of El Topo is the sequel to a Western movie Alejandro Jodorowsky made in 1970, and Abel will make little sense to those who’ve not read Cain. It may not anyway, as the story continues from the wilfully bonkers individuality of the movie.
El Topo birthed two sons. Cain grew to adulthood before his father’s death, and was cursed by him to be shunned by all he encountered on the basis that he was destined to be evil. While a strangely self-fulfilling prophecy, sure enough, his has been a life of dark deeds, some shown in the previous book. Abel is considerably younger, and as seen on the cover illustration, aims for a simpler existence more attuned to nature.
Imagine a form of road movie set in the days before roads, and you’ll have a handle on The Sons of El Topo. The two lead characters are set an end point, but meantime travel along a route where they become involved in whatever’s happening. This is all beautifully drawn by José Ladrönn, delivering both the characters and the places they visit, and Jodorowsky is an old hand at engaging adventure, if prone to gratuitous exploitation.
However, there’s one massive unpalatable problem with Abel. As part of defining what a bastard Cain is, Jodorowsky introduced a young teenage girl infatuated with him no matter how badly he treats her. It’s unsettling, but not beyond the bounds of narrative requirement. However, early on here there’s the unpleasant sight of Jodorowsky including the attempted, if ultimately not successful, rape of someone established as being below the current age of consent. The first book included a rape sequence where there were at least slim narrative justifications for it providing an insight into Cain. Here there’s no justification, even with religious hypocrisy a theme. Jodorowsky leads his story into the gratuitous scene and Ladrönn was happy enough to draw it. Showing the victim upset, but saved is no mitigation as there were plenty of other ways to move her from one location to another for story purposes. It’s deeply unpleasant, speaks very poorly of Jodorowsky and renders Abel unrecommendable in any respect.
The story doesn’t finish here. Ladronn’s methods are obviously work intensive, and there was a publication gap of three years between Cain being issued and Abel appearing. As of writing three further years have elapsed, and no conclusion has been published in any language.