Updated: Jul 9
As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.
The Metabarons is a science fiction (space opera) comic book series created by Alejandro Jodorowsky, who, if you are not familiar with, is a quite controversial figure for some of his creations like the movie Holy Mountain and the canceled adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune.
Without giving a complete overview of the series, which can be found at many other sites, including Wikipedia, there are a few times the meaning of life is discussed in the series, though not in detail (as is often the case for comics).
"The Metabarons" series is told from the perspective of a robot named Tonto, who has served the Metabaron dynasty just about from the start. In the Introduction, we are presented with another robot named Lothar, lamenting to Tonto, It can't be true... It can't be over already! My diodes will all fry in despair. I don't want to go back to nothingness. What we see here is two sentient robots contemplating their end, their demise. Tonto and Lothar briefly come to terms with the inevitable, and as would be revealed later, conclude that the only rational thing to do is anything to escape it. Well, at least the first time (both in some sense would later acquiesce with the fate of all living or self-aware beings—death).
Lothar and Tonto would return to the theme in Vol 6: Dona Vicenta, as Lothar loses faith and does not believe the Metabaron will return to the Metabunker. So he tries to commit suicide, I'm going to activate my auto-destruct program! ... Oh, bio-crap! The button doesn't work! Since that's how it is, I'm going to slam myself against the walls! Without a human master, we robots have no reason to exist! As in many portrayals of robots in science fiction, this is a common thread, i.e., the purpose of a robot will only be that for which it is programmed. For example, a robot programmed to make as many paper clips as possible will do so, even if that means converting the entire universe into paperclips. But having a purpose does not necessarily give life meaning.
So it is not from the robots in which we will find answers, but rather the Metabarons, and to understand the Metabarons, understand that each Metabaron is conditioned from birth to become a killer, to become the greatest killer in the universe—no, the greatest in the multiverse! Each new potential Metabaron has to become so skilled, that he (or she) must defeat (and kill) their own father (or mother) in battle before being bestowed with the title of Metabaron. Then after receiving the title, these Metabarons sometimes act as mercenaries for the highest bidder, sometimes they have more (or less) noble pursuits; most of the time, they are so psychologically damaged by their upbringing, their training, and the tragedies, the losses that life brings with age, that one could easily conclude that their lives are meaningless despite the huge impact they have on the universe. So what possible meaning can a Metabaron find?
In The Metabaron: Rina, The Meta-Guardianess (volume five), The Metabaron (No Name), the last of dynasty finds a reason to live, after much despair and moping about over the appalling brutality he called his life, of his past, he realizes that the universe will come to an end, as the Techno-Technos have used up all the Epyphite (a mystical anti-gravity substance). So he does what most men would do, he goes on a sexual escapade, sleeping with as many whores as Tonto can find (money not being of any consequence). That is, at least before unknowingly hooking up with the Techno-Pope's hermaphrodite daughter and falling in love, and it is through falling in love (and kind of out of it), he decides he will save his universe by taking Epyphite from a neighboring one. Or in his own words, as he would tell the Meta-Guardianess, Rina, from the adjacent universe (who he also just slept with): To save my universe is the final step of a long, perilous journey that I began a long time ago. It gives meaning to my life.
So there we have it, a Metabaron eventually finds meaning in life. A being who has committed unthinking atrocities, killed millions (maybe even billions or trillions), finally finds some redemption, some reason for being through the act of helping others. Interwoven also examined the idea of meaning after living a less than noble life through a character named Otis. But unlike Interwoven, which explores how meaning is only possible through relationships and those around us, The Metabaron series explores it across the multiverse. It should also be noted that love was not the only reason The Metabaron decided to save his universe. His bloodline was assigned the task of protecting Epyphite long ago, a task in which the Metabarons overwhelming failed. So not only did the Metabarons fail in their purpose, blinded by revenge, nihilism, and other things, they pretty much lived meaningless lives.
In The Metabarons, there are also a lot of other philosophical themes touched upon very briefly, mostly ones that revolve around nihilism and illusion, e.g., life and death do not exist, the universe is an illusion, etc. So if you are looking for a surprisingly good space opera with a twisted edge, you must check out this series. A lot of which is available on ComiXology for free if you have an unlimited membership.
Where to start in the series?
The Metabarons Vol. 1: Othon
The Metabarons Vol. 2: Honorata
The Metabarons Vol. 3: Aghnar
The Metabarons Vol. 4: Oda
The Metabarons Vol. 5: Steelhead
The Metabarons Vol. 6: Dona Vicenta
The Metabarons Vol. 7: Aghora
The Metabarons Vol. 8: No Name, The Last Metabaron
After finishing the volumes above, check out The Metabaron series that follows the story of the last Metabaron, No Name.
Did you read the series? What did you think? What did we miss? Comment below and let us know. Interestingly, I only stumbled upon this series by reading of the unfortunate and recent death of the artist, Juan Gimenez. But it was a great discovery indeed.