❉ Barbucci and Canepa’s Sky Doll series is unabashedly sexy, with a deep, genre-spanning story to tell.
Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa are probably best known for their work on Disney Italy’s W.I.T.C.H. and Monster Allergy, but their comic series Sky Doll should likely not find its way into the hands of their younger fans. Unabashedly sexy and grounded in themes like free love and the perversion of religion, Sky Doll is a far more mature read with a deep, genre-spanning story to tell.
A quick bit of catch-up for those who didn’t follow the comic’s release via Marvel: the religious leaders Agape and Lodovica are in conflict, with Agape being banished and Lodovica holding sway over her people with fake miracles. Meanwhile, a Sky Doll (basically a gynoid) named Noa is smuggled off the planet and away from Lodovica. As she and her companions travel from world to world, it becomes apparently she’s no ordinary Sky Doll – not only does she express very human emotions, but she also seems to be able to perform real miracles of her own.
The beginning of this fourth volume finds Noa and her friends on Sudra, where Noa has begun making a living as a miracle worker restoring animals to life. We’re beginning to see the truth of who – or what – Noa is. Unsurprisingly, there is definitely a Chosen One storyline at work. But in the world of Sky Doll, being a potential avatar of the embodiment of spiritual love isn’t even necessarily a desirable thing. We get the impression that even Agape – even the religious figure cast out by the embodiment of corrupt power – isn’t necessarily all that great. And that’s a lot to unpack.
The creators are already on record as being heavily against organised religion, and that leaning shows in their choice of storyline. It gives the comic, which is awash with beautiful wide-eyed girls and a rainbow of colours, a dark underpinning that never quite escapes you. Just as you’re admiring the lively, lovely art, you’re reminded that the world of Sky Doll is actually quite dire. Not only is the legendary villainness bad, but the legendary heroine isn’t looking that much better.
And where does that leave Noa – a more-human-than-human robot with independent thought and healing powers? It’s a little daunting to reflect on where she will end up, especially as the nature of the world around her becomes as evident to her as it is to the reader. It’s a tricky direction to take with a Chosen One story: amazing if done well, but hollow if done poorly or overdone.
It’s hard to tell just yet where this instalment of Sky Doll will go. So far, the stage setting is promising. And the sheer length of time alone it’s taken to put this comic out tells me that things aren’t being done particularly slapdash. Now, all we can do is wait and see which difficult lesson Noa will have to learn when the time comes.
On the technical side, Titan has done an excellent job taking up the torch on English language distribution. The translation is solid and the typesetting is well done. I look forward to seeing them do more of this.
In the end, Sky Doll is a funny one: beautiful to look at, entertaining to read, but always prodding you a bit with the idea that maybe things are going to end on a note you’re going to be particularly pleased about. Considering I’m a newcomer to the comic and I’m already getting this sense with just the barest of introductions to the characters? That’s pretty impressive. I can pray for a happy ending for Noa, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be as easy as that.
❉‘Sky Doll 4: Sudra #1’ (Writer: Barbara Canepa; Artist: Alessandro Barbucci) is published by Titan Comics on 8 March 2017, RRP £2.65. For mature readers only.