This fifth volume of Moebius’ collected works includes the The Gardens of Aedena as well as The Unfaithful Body and Hit Man.
The Gardens of Aedena is a sequel to the main story of the first volume, Upon a Star.
In my review for the first volume, I mentioned how in awe I was of Moebius’ story about Stel and Atan, two Space travellers who activated a mysterious pyramid on a lost planet; The Gardens of Aedena is a continuation of that story.
They are now on what appears to be the legendary planet Aedena, a Terran (earth) like paradise where they must adapt without their artificial technologies.
Moebius, who at the time was a member of a New Age group, uses the main characters to explore ideas about nature, food and self-transformation. The place is full of apple trees but our two protagonists are reluctant to try them, having become accustomed to synthetic food all their lives. Atan seems well versed in earth’s history, having studied it, and thus assures Stel that the food is not poisonous.
They also encounter strange creatures, namely a celestial lion during day, and fairy folk at night who are seen cavorting around a crystal star as Stel and Atan lie asleep beneath a magnificent tree. It is a stunning image and conjures up a feeling of luminous transendence and has a very ethereal feel to it.
Hormonode implants prevented both character’s sexual development; while Stel has becoming more visibly male, Stel has now blossomed into a beautiful female. This calls to mind the character of Barnier in The Airtight Garage, who remains sexless but morphs into a woman towards the end of the story. This transformation seems to inspire Stel, but leaves Atan uncomfortable. Stel then does something which changes the course of the story.
Stel soon find himself alone, and his journey takes off on a more mystical route. Dream and reality start merging, prompting surreal encounters with tentacled monsters and hallucinatory sex on the celestial planes, one which Stel must traverse in order to locate Atan.
The other two stories are unrelated to the main one. The Unfaithful Body is a two-page adventure of Moebius’ recurring hero, Major Grubert (who also makes an appearance in the main story, albeit in a different guise) accompanied by two associates.
Major Grubert is on a Fantastic Voyage style trip inside the body of his lover, Malvina, who it turns out, is carrying a dangerous virus. However, there is another surprise in store for the Major.
This strip is Moebius’ homage to the Fantastic Voyage, a film of which he was great admirer.
Hit Man is a tale which is drawn very much in the style of Hergé, about a 30s era gangster unexpectedly caught up in the surreal dreams of the author. As is characteristic of Moebius, the style shifts tonally from page to page, until the main character is unrecognisable towards the end.
This volume is another triumph for the French comics maestro, and is a perfect example of his progression as a visionary artist.