Comics and Graphic Novels

Review – Andromeda, Or The Long Way Home

(this article has spoilers, read at your own discretion)

Andromeda, Or The Long Way Home is a 2018 self-published graphic novel that contains two previously published chapters – Bugonia (2016) and A House in the Horizon (2017) –, and a new chapter entitled Our Mother the Mountain. This wonderful hardcover book, with a cloth-bound spine, a copper hot foil-stamped cover, and high quality paper stock, also contains a selection of illustrations and sketches, and a guest pin-up gallery with art from Mike Mignola, Artyom Trakhanov, Frans Boukas, John Kenn Mortensen, Matt Smith, Simon Roy, Aaron Conley, and others. As an addition to the book, crowdfunded in Indiegogo, an ambient music soundtrack CD was produced; the album, Sounds of Andromeda is available online[01].

Zé Burnay, born in 1991, in Portugal, is the author of both the comics and the soundtrack. This amazing illustrator (and storyteller) has engraved his name in the history of the Portuguese comic with this aery, surreal, mythical, and mysterious story. This is only the first part of a much bigger narrative arch, therefore, much more will come from the pen and mind of this author [02].

The first story – Bugonia – is silent, and, in cinematic fashion, it unfolds slowly as we understand who is the aid and who is the antagonist and corrupter of the land – a strange land indeed on account that it orbits two suns (definitely not Kansas anymore). Many questions are unanswered in this first story: who is this man in contemporary clothes wandering around? Why does he have ‘ISA’ written in his black jacket? What supernatural force animates the Minotaur figure, dressed with an old military uniform? Why both protagonist and antagonist wear the symbol of the sun?

The second story is bigger and it moves a bit from the fantasy genre into science fiction. We now know how the protagonist (a sort of Jesus figure) arrived at this strange place. His abilities to read the entrails of animals and to have prophetic dreams are shown to us. After being ambushed by strange man-faced animals and harpies he is saved by a big lion that, eventually, will cure him of his wounds in a dream-like state that he falls after arriving at the house on the horizon. In this house, he will ‘save’ a group of refugees, imprisoned under the spell of a false parasitical god and unable to leave the building that reminded me the architectural style of Hitchcock’s Bates Motel in Psycho (1960).

According to the author, this second story is vaguely inspired by the Nemean Lion tale, the first of Hercules twelve labors. This chapter culminates with the protagonist in a meditative stance, where he has a vision of the statue of Andromeda dressed in Hercules garb: a reference to the world he has landed on and to his victory over the parasitical false god with the shape of a lion with human features. The drawing of the statue was inspired by an 18th century sculpture of Omphale wearing Hercules clothing [03].

More questions come to mind after reading this chapter, but the main ones are: what creature is the six-legged round-skull animal that observed the protagonist when he was using his dream state ability to see the truth? From now on we will address the protagonist as Kométes because the parasitical false god called him that way before he was defeated. Kométes arrived on this planet in a spherical contraption, not unlike a shooting star. This Greek word, translated as ‘comet’, literally means ‘long-haired’. 

The third and last chapter of this book recounts Kométes voyage to the holy mountain where he takes counsel of Harupsex that with his divinatory abilities tells him about his ultimate goal – Albion. The way up the mountain is dangerous but he has the help of the man-wolf that he didn’t’ kill before and fed. The strange round-skull creature from the house in the horizon follows them and, after an abominable metamorphosis, it rides an aurochs and kills the man-wolf (the price for helping the protagonist, the man-creature, the trespasser). Kométes resumes his long way home.   

This is a book to read several times and to ponder on the symbols and metaphors the author uses. The beautiful images Zé Burnay created make it easy to go back and read again and again and to better understand this mythical and archetypal story.

This graphic novel is quite an artistic and narrative achievement and, soon, it will be published in Portugal by a new Portuguese publishing house: A Seita (The Sect) [04]. This new comics publisher was born by the joining forces of six sequential art lovers: André Morgado, Bruno Caetano, João Miguel Lameiras, João Mário Marques, José Hartvig de Freitas José Pedro Castello Branco. Moreover, the new edition will have an addition of several pin ups from the Portuguese authors André Coelho, Jorge Coelho, André Pereira and Mosi.

[01] https://andromedamusic.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-of-andromeda

[02] http://zeburnay.com

[03] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omphale

[04] www.facebook.com/aseitadabd

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