Now, Eden really is a fascinating one, a meditation on our natures, our relationships with the animals, our cruelty and what it all means. It’s a beautifully done, if flawed, imagining of what might happen if, once upon a Christmas Eve, animals begin to talk.
Obviously, when the animals talk there’s a radical shift in the world, a shift that fundamentally changes everything and allows Tomek Woroniak to spin us out on a strange, magnificent in so many ways, yet too disjointed in others, adventure that will puzzle you, delight you and, by the final page will have you questioning what it is that you just read and thinking about the questions it raises long after closing the book.
So, it’s all about these guys…
That’s Simon and his cohabitant rat. And the rat’s the absolute star turn in Eden, a wonderfully sharp turn of phrase and a great to-and-fro with Simon all the way through.
Simon’s living in something of a limbo, preparing for his hearing to decide his future, wondering how often he’ll be able to see his previously cleared vegan girlfriend, Maya, who lives relatively free and comfortable, and wondering how his meat-eating parents are getting on after they fell foul of the new rules years ago and now live in the meat-eaters ghetto.
You see, a few years ago, ‘the Eve’ happened and the animals began to talk. That’s the entire sum of the book’s fantastical imagining of things. But it’s how Woroniak deals with all this that generates some profound and throught-provoking ideas.
The reason Simon is before something akin to a truth and reconciliation committee with powers to radically alter lives, the reason his girlfriend is living in relative comfort, the reason his parents are living down in their basement in the ghetto… it all comes down to what they ate.
Because obviously, the animals aren’t too keen on the idea of humans who farmed them, slaughtered them, consumed them, in their millions, for years before ‘the Eve’.
The tables are turned, the animals have risen up, the humans are interrogated. If you contributed to the slaughter for consumption, you were first to be found guilty. If you ate meat, you were next.
And that’s the first half of the book, a wonderful exploration of what it means to be a human under the new regime. There are so many brilliant touches here, so much to think about. Sure, you need to get over the slightly improbable idea of the world shifting this much just as the animals talk and the idea that humanity would simply concede power this way. But… as long as you simply go with it, there’s so much to enjoy here.
Well, at least for that first half. Sadly, that brilliance of throwing up all these questions is abandoned as Simon, Maya, and the rat get hold of Eden, a psychedelic mold that sends them off on a very strange trip.
It’s a trip that shifts everything, messes with the core fantasy of the book, and eventually introduces them to someone who might just be God.
Frankly, it’s a jolt. Artistically it allows Woroniak to go in some wonderful directions, which is all well and good.
But the problem is that something that had been an absolutely thought-provoking glimpse into the results of this Orwellian-esque Animal Farm thing, where there’s so much potential in seeing the ramifications of this shift in power, turns rather lazily into Simon’s decision to take action, and we’re off into some extra exploration of individuality versus society, of free expression.
All of which makes it a frustrating yet fascinating thing, something full of so much potential that could have, should have gone just that little further into the fascinating ideas of the first half and could easily have constructed a thing of brilliance around that solid central fantasy concept. As it is, what we have here is still a book that warrants your attention, a wonderful concept to set your mind wondering, executed very well, and only failing when the author decides to take it just that little too far and switch things around in a way that just didn’t work as well for me.
Eden by Tomek Woroniak. Lettering by Pawel Timofiejuk, translation by Lukasz Szostak.
Published by Europe Comics 2020, originally published by Timof Comics 2018.