Moebius - The World of Edena ****
Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius, was certainly a major figure in the European comics world, but his legacy since his death in 2012 remains uncertain. In his native France new editions of the bulk of his work were still being published up until the time of his death, but in the UK and the USA, despite the support of Marvel/Epic who published much of his earlier work, some serialisation in Heavy Metal and publication of his more recent works by Dark Horse, Moebius seems to be better known on this side of the channel for his concepts and designs for the films Tron, The Fifth Element and Alien and for his association and collaborations with Alejando Jodorowsky. It will be interesting to see whether this deluxe publication by Dark Horse of the complete The World of Edena as the first volume of a 'Moebius Library' will improve the artists standing in the English-speaking world.
There is a feeling however that Moebius's surreal science-fiction fantasies are very much the product of hippy philosophy, New Age ideals and drug-inspired visions that could come across as perhaps a little bit dated today. That's certainly a view borne out by the content and philosophy behind The World of Edena, which is some respects is a typical example of the imaginative creative mind of Moebius with his phenomenal clear-line drawing style and bold colouration, as well as the somewhat surreal twists of reality between outer space and inner space that occur in his work. In other respects, particularly since this series is very much lesser known than the artist's Airtight Garage, Arzach or Incal series, and the fact that it covers a period of over 15 years of work, from 1983 through to 2000, The World of Edena has a distinct place of its own in the Moebius bibliography.
The World of Edena started life as a short piece commissioned for a Citroen car, but Moebius creatively extended the short story 'Repair' into a longer work 'Upon A Star' which Citroen graced with a special limited edition publication. The first volume of the story concerns two space vehicle repairmen, Stel and Atan, two androgynous figures from Lazlan who set out to work on an abandoned spaceship orbiting a large planet. The repairs done, the ship automatically takes the two repairmen onto the planet that they dub 'Pool Ball'. Making their way towards a bright light on the seemingly uninhabited planet, Stel and Atan discover a pyramid that has gathered specimens from all intelligent life in the galaxy. The two representatives from Lazlan are the last to arrive. With Stel's instinctive knowledge of mechanics, he is able to enter the pyramid which converts into a spaceship that is to take them to the mystical garden paradise of Edena.
In the curious timelines that have separated them from the other passengers, the planet is no longer the garden paradise it might once have been. Soon after appearing there, Stel starts to adopt male characteristics and Atan female characteristics, but when Stel is unable to control his newfound urges, the two of them go separate ways. The subsequent chapters of The World of Edena follow the very different paths taken by Stel and Atan on the planet Edena. In the interim, the planet has turned into a large desert and a society known as the Nest has sprung up, made up of strange figures all wearing masks to protect them against respiratory diseases. But there are other strange phenomena that occur in these deserts and mystical figures that assist Stel and others that torment him. In her female form meanwhile, Atana is revered as a Goddess who could help restore the Nest from the corrupt society it has become under the control of the Paternum. There is a sense however that Stel and Atana need to be reunited for this to happen.
It all sounds relatively straightforward when you put it like that, but The World of Edena would take a long time to reach its conclusion and the story covers a number of styles and ideas over the years. The opening chapter 'Upon a Star' from 1983 is a gorgeous example of the artist's simple clear-line style with its wide-open vistas of planetary adventure. By the time we get to 'STA' in 1999/2000, the drawings are more detailed, the visions of Edena and the experiences of the story's protagonists is rather more subject to surreal visions. It's not quite as hallucatory as the author's extraordinary 40 Days dans le désert B. drawn around the same time, but the visions clearly come from the same headspace. The nature of the writing however ensures that each chapter of The World of Edena has its own distinct character, as if the author wanted to find something new to explore in each section over the years that matched his own development.
What Moebius wants to explore is explained a little in the Introduction to the book and in the short notes the author himself provides for each chapter. There's a lot of New Age philosophy, psychic and spiritual exploration, Moebius at the commencement of the story being interested in the effects of natural foods on the body, in "instinctotherapy", in the development of sexual identity and the urges and impulses it imposes on Stel and Atan, and how impurities and the setting of unnatural orders can upset the natural balance of the individual and have a negative impact on society as a whole. Again, that's over-simplifying what the opposing forces in The World of Edena represent, the author taking a more improvisational approach that permits him to follow his instinct and explore diverging tangents. That's very much in evidence in the development of the art style, where the empty space of the deserts of the subconscious realm are inhabited by all manner of monsters, demons and visions. The reader however is free to make their own associations, and there is plenty of material here to fire the imagination.
The complete The World of Edena collects 'Repairs/Upon a Star', 'The Gardens of Edena', 'The Goddess', 'Stel' - all previously published - and the final chapter 'SRA', which has never been translated into English before. The 344-page hardcover volume is in French BD album format with pages of heavy stock paper. The reproduction and colouring of the artwork is beautiful and the whole book has been re-lettered. There is an Introduction and brief notes by the author for each chapter. There is unfortunately no sign of Moebius' more famous works forming part of this Moebius Library collection anytime soon, the next volumes listed for publication being The Art of Edena in 2017, and Inside Moebius in three volumes in 2018, which will presumably collect his shorter non-serialised work.
The Moebius Library: The World of Edena by Moebius is published by Dark Horse.
Moebius - The World of Edena ****