After the disappointing, lackluster Makabre, it’s easy to imagine Quique Alcatena was delighted to cut loose on his followup serial Metallum Terra — another collaboration with writer Eduardo Mazzitelli; eight-page chapters for the monthly magazine Cóctel in September-December 1991.
The back matter for this collection lays out a pretty bare structure for reading this work as epic poetry rather than heroic fantasy; drawing a sharp line between the two is a bit above my pay grade but I know I prefer my Quique comics to be less interested in The Hero’s Journey™ than in using a protagonist as a vehicle for exploring the artist’s visual imagination. Less Luke Skywalker, more Jerry Thompson, please.
We’ve gone on the Hero’s Journey plenty of times; make the scenery stunning, give us a few great amusements and something to chew on and we promise not to kick the seat and ask “Are we there yet?” for the next hour or two.
Even Quique’s most active, plot-driving heroes seem to serve more as sub-metatextual tour guides, leading us through his environments, local characters and notable events first, then being heroes who need to do ______ to progress to their goal/the next act of the story.
The key to this sense of intent is the openness of his pages and panels — compare these pages to even the most Quiquesque of Makabre‘s art from last week and you’ll see some of what I mean. Even on its busiest page, there’s [breathing] space in Metallum that’s missing from the earlier book, which gives it a sense of the epic without resorting to full-page splashes.
At his best, Quique’s art is psychologically expansive; a double-page spread in a single panel. For a medium so dominated by action/adventure, this is a surprisingly rare talent for an artist to possess.