Review: Royal Blood

Written by guest contributor Brian Roe

The new graphic novel by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Dongzi Liu is a challenging hybrid of beauty and foulness that combines the fun loving happiness of King Lear with the knee-slapping hilarity of Titus Andronicus. But to merely discount it as an exercise in aggressively nihilistic storytelling is to miss it’s true goal as a hate-filled indictment of women, being a woman, or not murdering and raping women as often as possible.

Royal Blood begins with a massive battle and an act of trust that is quickly followed by a foul act of betrayal. All of the artwork is beautiful and dynamic, full of Chinese manhua action, impeccably painted by Dongzi Liu. It feels very much like a classic Heavy Metal Magazine story and carries the weight of an impending epic. And then it gets dark, violent, and strange.

The main character, King Alvar, goes from being a god-like monarch to madness, murder, mutilation, incest, followed by priest murder etc etc...and he’s our protagonist! The most confusing thing about Alvar is not that he does these awful things, he often has some justification, but that he never learns or grows as a character even though he continually causes nothing but grief and pain to those around him.

Royal_Blood_coverThen we have the really vile characters. I’ll not go into detail here other than to ponder the question: What sort of reference does an artist have to collect to show a woman being fed her own breast after it’s been hacked off? Will that Google search get you put on any special government lists? And why on earth is it fucking necessary to show such a scene in the first fucking place?!

Okay, hold on. Maybe I’m completely missing the point. Perhaps Jodorowsky’s using physical violence to represent the metaphor of sacrifice that mythology has taught us often comes hand in hand with enlightenment. Odin loses an eye, Tyr a hand, Bodhidharma meditated until his legs fell off. Maybe the various wounds the characters must sustain are meant as trophies that show their personal growth into more noble and spiritual beings. But if that were the case wouldn’t they occasionally not go right back to being the same vile bastards that they’ve shown themselves to be throughout the story?

I’m sure I’m missing something here. Jodorowsky, for being a sex and violence obsessed magician, isn’t some monster who just gets a thrill from seeing this sort of id-vomit made real. At least I choose to think he isn’t. I’d be more than happy to meet him in Paris and discuss Royal Blood over a couple of handsome brandies and I am more than eager to have my clod-hopper mind blown by the majestic and meaningful saga of Royal Blood. So Alejandro, my schedule’s always open for you.

But I don’t get the sense that this story is anything more than an attempt to out tragedy Shakespeare, to be more violent than George R. R. Martin, to show us soft lily-livered modern folk how real shit used to be back before society made us wash our hands and file our taxes and the world was nothing more than kill or be killed, rape or be raped. Royal Blood feels like something that was created just to shock. The combination of beautiful art and atrocious characters is quite shocking, just not in the way that I think Jodorowsky intended.

Score: 1/5

Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky Artist: Dongzi Liu Price: $16.99 Release Date: 11/18/14 Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital