Nothing makes my heart swell with pride like watching comics take off their shackles and fly as freely as any other storytelling medium. Although European comics aren't as restricted to action-oriented genres as American books are, they still prominently feature pulpy yarns that end in a slugfest or two. Whenever comics, as a whole, break away from action genres to focus on introspective stories, the results are usually sublime. In the states, David Muzzucchelli's Asterios Polyp and Art Spiegelman's Maus stand as prime examples of comics' potential to tell "grown-up" stories. In the world of European comics, my favorite book that focuses on mature content is Moebius and Jodorowsky's engrossing Madwoman of the Sacred Heart.
Even though Madwoman does have several moments of action, the tale primarily revolves around a French philosophy professor thrust into a midlife crisis against his will. Jodorowsky's script deftly balances weighty philosophical ideas and biblical symbolism without ever feeling tedious or didactic. Pulling the reader through an escalating series of bizarre sex rituals and crime, Jodorowsky leads us into the depths of his esoteric musings about reality.
On the art front, Moebius is in rare form. Anyone familiar with Moebius' work knows that his strength as an artist emanates from his adaptability from project to project. No matter how disparate his style feels in whatever book he pencils, it always feels like Moebius and Madwoman of the Sacred Heart is no exception. In the earlier, more tame sections of the book, Moebius' pencils possess a cartoony charm, with enough infrequent touches of sexuality to make the graphic novel feel like the thinking man's version of a Tijuana bible. Once the narrative becomes thoroughly unhinged, Moebius switches his style to reflect the change in the story's tone. It's a subtle shift, but eagle-eyed readers will appreciate the tenderness of his lines and the dynamic energy that radiates from his characters during the book's climax.
The Madwoman of the Sacred Heart encapsulates why I love the medium of comics. Despite how grounded and relatable the book's premise is, Madwoman uses sequential art and the unique conventions it's afforded to frame the narrative in a way that's impossible in any other medium. If you're looking for a layered and thoughtful read with enough humor and sex to simultaneously stimulate your human and reptilian brain, the Madwoman of the Sacred Heart is waiting for you.