In the first story, ”Arzach” (8 colour pages), the protagonist spies on a naked woman who dresses but he is surprised by her husband. He captures and suspends him to a giant skeleton but all for nothing because, finally, the beauty of the woman leaves something to be desired…
In the second story, “Harzak” (8 colour pages), our heroes flies over the carnivorous plain on his faithful Pteroid, his luggage being on the back of a second bio-mechanical pterosaur. But after a long flight, the latter is tired and plunges into the killer grass. Harzak must rest his mount but the only haven possible is a kind of arch occupied by a giant primate, red and fierce. Full of nonchalance, the hero triumphs. This is my favorite story thanks to Moebius’ beautiful drawings. In my youth, I made a poster out of one of these boards.
In the third story, ”Arzak “(8 colour pages), a man arrives by car near some sort of stone temple. He enters, passes through a crowd of passive / aggressive green men, then enters a room where he repairs equipments. In the distance, an inanimate Pteroid wakes up. His task accomplished, the man leaves with his car…
The fourth “story” is a series of eight colour pages that do not seem related but which may form an enigmatic story titled Harzach… The quality and style of each is quite uneven, the best being a double-page fresco depicting an army.
When it comes to the “other fantasy stories”, this part includes a selection of completely different stories (except one).
In “The Detour” (7 p., B&W), Jean Giraud’s family take a detour on their way to the island of Re and makes strange encounters. The story doesn’t make much sense tout the art is beautifully detailed.
In “The Ballade” (9 colour pages), a young explorer crosses the bio-forest reciting Rimbaud. He meets a fauness, who saves him from the attack of an Euchinus and decides to join him to discover distant human cities full of wonders. But in their first meeting with a troop of these townspeople, they are massacred without questions. Moebius said that he used an absurd, sudden and tragic ending because he was coming close to the deadline… This story shows us a beautiful, intriguing and original universe.
In “The White Citadel” (6 colour pages), a knight crossed for months the wilderness until he encountered a citadel carved in one single stone. An elf appears and tells him the story of a prideful king who wed a beautiful princess, but as soon she entered the nuptial chamber it closed down, trapping her. The king was barred from entering by a dark creature. Soon the knight fall asleep, possessed by the king spirit, and in his dream fights the dark creature again. In the morning the traveling knight wakes up blind, deaf and mute… Moebius notes in the preface that his friends commented that his stories were always very negative, so to prove them wrong he wrote this one but failed as it ended up again dark and morbid!
In “Ktulu” (5 colour pages), after a last meeting the president goes down a dark tunnel to meet the hunt master who will grant him the agreed privilege to hunt the Ktulon… A short and unremarkable story. Moebius notes that this is a little humorous fable referencing Lovecraft’s mythology and, at the same time, criticizing the French president “using the privilege of his office to go to Africa and hunt wild game” which he found shocking.
The book ends with one last “Arzach” story (5 colour pages) giving some humorous background to the character, the last ptero-warriors helping an artist retrieving the red stone stolen by an evil wizard. Amusing.
As for the French edition of Arzack and the compilation of stories that included it, this book offers some of the best examples of science fiction stories by Moebius. It is very interesting (and entertaining) to read. It’s really worth a look.
Moebius 2, The Collected Fantasies of Jean Giraud: Arzach & Other Fantasy Stories, by Moebius. New York: Epic/Marvel, April 1987. 72 p. $US 9.95 / $C 13.95. ISBN 0-87135-279-6.
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