See Magazine calls EDEN a "singular work of delicate beauty and wonder"

“What It Means To Be Human” / See Magazine / See Magazine Staff / February 18, 2011

The comic strip is following the comic book in maturing as a bona fide artistic and literary medium.
Last year provided the collected Children of the Atom, Dave Lapp’s poignant, existential and utterly incomparable chronicle of two innocents with nothing but each other in a simultaneously beautiful, threatening and incomprehensible world. It’s one of the most unique, esthetically accomplished of all comic strips.

"In his series Eden, first serialized online and set in a fairy tale world where the magical is everyday, Argentinean artist Pablo Holmberg has fashioned an equally singular work of delicate beauty and wonder. Like Lapp, Holmberg sees no reason to limit the comic strip to a gag medium, which it’s been for most of its history. Instead, he infuses the form with beguiling fancifulness and unexpected depth.

Holmberg remains aware of the conventions of his art: many strips still utilize the classic gag format, with the succession of panels leading to a crafted punchline. Nonetheless, how many gag strips have punchlines as charming, unexpected and imaginative as these?

Let’s take a handful of examples featuring what is apparently the king of the realm; it’s never made clear what the odd little creature is, but never mind. In one instance, he’s afloat in a small boat, and is informed by a bird that a storm is coming.

“You heard him,” the king says after the messenger departs. “We’re going home.” Then we see the boat rise skyward, resting upon some giant undersea lizard, which stands to full height and starts walking.

On the very next page, the king captures the spirit of an animal he’s hunted down; pleased, he proceeds to use it as a bedside lamp.

Or the funniest of all – conveying something of the character’s personality — is what the crowned, fur-collared little being does to an impertinent fish.

(By contrast, some strips have fun playing with fairy tale convention — as when the king tries to awaken a sleeping beauty with a kiss … then sits, utterly befuddled, when it fails to work.)

But Holmberg also uses the gag-strip structure for his own purposes — leading the reader to truisms and epiphanies instead. In one instance, a bird cuts short the sobbing of a forest creature with its single-note translation of a single word: “Hope.” This could have been delivered on the level of a New Age greeting card message, but it’s unexpected and moving.

Another touching strip has two brothers talking in their darkened bedroom at night. One asks where their father is; the other replies he’s working late, to feed them. “Why are you crying?” the latter then asks. “I’ll try to eat less,” comes the reply. And in yet another instance, there’s Holmberg’s affecting explanation of where rain comes from.

There’s such a delicacy and romantic sensibility at work. When a bird awakens an odd little creature in its bed, it rises to light a giant lamp on a cliffside: “The first star shows up later each time,” the king says, gazing from the ground far, far away. In another strip, a lame man and a mermaid dance together … underwater.

It’s Holmberg’s statements on nothing less than the nature of love that reflects his work at its most outstanding. Take the episode where the king and his birdlike female companion have a quarrel, part, fume … and reconcile tenderly in the final panel.

Most moving of all is when a man joins a woman, who’s clearly been waiting for him, in a picturesque valley. Then in the abrupt concluding frame, we see two tombstones, one of which says to the other: “I was waiting for you.” It’s the outcome of all love stories.

Eden is a work of sometimes almost poetic beauty — pure, heartfelt and true. It’s so tender, so affirming, so reassuring. It’s a work of genuine art that demands discovery.

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