Review: Moebius Book 2 – Arzach

Arzach is quite possibly, Moebius’ greatest creation. It is a strip which which has taken on legendary status in the comics medium.  

This work more than any other, has inspired writers, artists and film makers from around the world (Miyazaki’s Nausicaa is one which comes to mind). 

The book contains four of Arzach’s adventures (Arzach, Harzak, Arzak, Harzakc). The first story finds the silent skyglider on his concrete pterodactyl, passing between the spires of a stunning city, peeking into a window as a beautiful woman undresses. He is confronted by an angry local, and after dealing with him, he returns back to meet the woman, only to receive an unexpected surprise.  

Arzach

The strip is notable for being completely wordless, and it works, elevating it to mythical status. It is a creation deep from within Moebius’ subconscious mind. 

“Arzach was a kind of statement”, Moebius writes in the afterword, “with it I tried to plunge within an alien world, a world literally beyond anything we know. But I didn’t want to do just any kind of weird story. It had to be very personal, carry a lot of my inner feelings”.

Moebius then goes on to talk about the archetypal forms and images, in particular, the phallic symbols within the story, from Arzach’s hat to the tall spires, and the dream like influences of his work. 

In the second story Harzak the explorer loses a pterodactyl to carnivorous plants.

Harzak

He then encounters a giant ape-like creature who provides amusement and distraction for him. Whilst in Arzak, a technician traverses across a desert to a fantastic temple. Within its walls, dejected looking creatures mope around incessently, one of whom decides to knock our protagonist out with flying kick! Undettered by the assult, he enters the bunker and sets about fixing things. 

Harzakc opens with the rider again spying on a beautiful woman before flying off into some fantastical weird scenery. His motives are unclear, it could be his way of clearing his mind. 

The Detour finds Moebius and his wife and daughter on a metaphysical road trip through the French West Coast. He encounters a giant humanoid being, and travels through a chasm and a sprawling, spectacular city. 

Face to face with the giant ‘Land Rover’

Moebius’ black and white work here is astonishing, both in the detail and the imagery, although the story is a little tricky to follow at times. 

In The Ballad, a Lady Faun called Loona meets up with a Mountain Pooh called, well Pooh! He invites her to accompany him on a trip to the Savannah. Loona is reluctant at first, but goes ahead anyway. What transpires thereafter, is quite shocking. 

Loona and Pooh

The White Citadel is another fantasy strip about a knight who comes upon a strange citadel. He meets a dwarf who relates to him the tragic story about the inhabitants of the citadel, and while the knight is asleep, his dreams take a turn for the weird. 

The White Citadel

Ktulu concludes the volume, and is Moebius’ tribute to H.P Lovecraft. The story itself is very brief, and revolves around a President of a country taking time out to go on a hunting trip of the Lovecraftian kind. Moebius’ artwork again is stunning, with rich colours and exquisite detail. 

Gate keepers in ‘Ktulu’

This is another strong volume from this series, with varied style and content. And including the invaluable foreword by the man himself, serves as a fascinating insight into the thoughts and methodology of Europe’s most celebrated comic artist. 

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