For the last week I have been knocked out with a relatively short-lived but vicious cold, confining me to a world where the only entertainment to be had was whatever was in arms reach. So, after watching a few movies and indulging in a little of the twelve day Simpsons marathon (oh, the nostalgia!), I started rifling through the books on my shelves. From that venture I rediscovered an old favorite from about four years ago, Sky Doll by Barbara Canepa & Alessandro Barbucci, so I decided to give it a review for old times’ sake.
Sky Doll is an exquisitely crafted science fiction epic originally printed by Soleil Productions in Europe and brought to the United States by Marvel. It has everything that mature comic lovers can hope for; it’s dark, a little sexy, and full of surprising insights. The story is set in a world originally divided by two priestesses of opposing philosophies, one representing the spiritual side of love, called Agape, and the other representing physical love, named Lodovica. However, eventually the balance of power tipped, and all hell broke loose.
When the dust cleared, one power stood instead of two. The world became overtaken with vice and carnal desire, and anyone who worshipped the priestess Agape became reviled as a heretic. Best personifying this brand new regime are creations known as sky dolls, life-like androids without rights, resembling a young female, who exist only to serve the state’s desires. Noa, the main character of this odyssey, is one of these sky dolls, although she has qualities that make her a bit…different, including strange flashes of memories, sudden bursts of power, and a personality and desires of her own. With the help of two “missionaries,” Noa travels the universe in search of some greater reason for her existence.
The story progresses from there, taking some interesting twists and turns along the way, none of which you’ll hear from me (I’ve given away enough as it is). What I will say is that you would be hard pressed to find a fictional realm quite like this one in any other story. In the world of Sky Doll, religion, consumerism, and science function as a single entity, and differences in spiritual philosophies can determine the shape of entire worlds.
However, appearances can be deceiving, and the more you learn about the world Noa lives in, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish the white hats from the black, and the tormentors from the victims.
The artwork for this tale, courtesy of Alessandro Barbucci, is every bit as extraordinary as the story it accompanies. With every new volume taking place on a different planet, every new landscape is as intricate and visually stunning as the one before it. The idea of a standard backdrop in this story is laughable, as the architecture, landscapes, and especially the people shift and change with every new chapter. The designs make me think of a blend of Disney, Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal, and LAIKA (the studio that brought us Coraline and Paranorman). They catch the eye and ensnare the imagination.
To date, Marvel has published three volumes in the United States, namely Volume 1: The Yellow City, Volume 2: Aqua, and Volume 3: The White City, all of which have been collected into a single volume. There has also been a Volume 0: Doll’s Factory, which includes some early sketches for the story and a few teasing prequel scenes.
The fourth volume of this series, Sudra, has yet to come stateside, but supposedly a black and white version has been released in France, so hope springs eternal. In my opinion, the world could use more stories stories like this, and it’s a crime that this one has been left unfinished for so long.