BARBARELLA #4 / Writer: Mike Carey/ Artist: Jorge Fornes/ Colorist: Celeste Woods/ Letterer : Crank!/ Publisher: Dynamite/ Published: March 14th, 2018
Barbarella’s continued existence in comics is a blessing; seeing a sex-positive, apologetically free loving woman essentially sexing her way through space is just… well, it’s just what you need really. This particular issue is a huge improvement on the first three- Red Hot Gospel. This arc was mostly mired by artwork that felt like it was drawn by a knock-off Ian Gibson or Mobius. The story for Red Hot Gospel itself was okay, but felt like a rushed ‘homage’ to The Handmaid’s Tale.
Incidentally- if you want a good successor to the original Barbarella (other than Kelly Sue DeConnick’s 2015 Barbarella series for Humanoids) read The Ballad Of Halo Jones and thank me later.
This one-shot issue (titled Pest Control) not only has better art but a much better story too- covering all the best things about Barbarella: plenty of action, a touch of comedy and a cute fox. And alien sex. Obviously.
Barbarella’s ship now feels more Firefly-esqe, with exposed metal and low ceilings. Everything is more utilitarian and lived in. It’s closer to the inside of a submarine, or an underground train system going through hasty repairs. This aesthetic contrasts nicely with Barbarella’s unapologetic sixties glamour- the red, form fitting jumpsuit, bright yellow boots and that hair. Good Lord. I am so glad they’ve finally invented holding spray that prevents helmet-hair.
I am also glad artist Jorge Fornes makes the decision to keep those eye-rolling pin-high-heels to a minimum, because those things are completely ridiculous and were yet another thing that bothered me throughout the first three issues… can they be ditched for the sake of the actual story? On the cover is fine, but those boots could turn your ankle or get caught in the grated floor! I can take the beehive hair, but no more pin-heels. Ever. Please. At least platforms are more supportive. Sorry, I’ll stop now.
The other aspect that nicely contrasts with the ship’s interior is the lush, leafy jungle planet below. This planet is full of weird creatures and the ‘pest’ of the title, which I won’t spoil. The planet itself is made of marshy, swampy greens- clashing again with Barbarella’s primary color brightness. This is how Barbarella rolls- bringing joyous color and easy sexuality wherever she goes.
I know I mentioned this a couple times already, but the most refreshing aspect of the series is seeing a woman just casually go about, having no strings attached one night stands, without living under the fear of assault. At least in this issue, she’s living the dream.
Given all the eighties nostalgia that’s been kicking around, a touch of sixties rainbow garishness and slinky sensuality is not unwelcome. Especially when it is contrasted against an otherwise kind of generic looking noughties-era ship. This vibrant figure is what most people loved about Barbarella to begin with. She is one of many other female led books starring characters who were, essentially pin-ups (Sheena, Vampirella, Red Sonja), who are now getting stories that are fun, epic, compelling… without sacrificing the character’s inherit sexiness. Some have doubted the value of these characters, but these titles show that is entirely possible to revamp them without losing their original characteristics. Let’s hope it continues with Barbarella. This is a solid, enjoyable stand alone issue, and hopefully a sign of things getting better in the series overall.
Verdict: 3.5 Out Of 5