Saturday, 1 August 2015

A Redtail's Dream by Minna Sundberg

A Redtail's Dream is the debut work of Minna Sundberg, which she worked on as a "practice comic" before she started Stand Still, Stay Silent. I have covered it earlier on this blog here.

The premise is a bit complicated. A young fox-spirit is given the task of guarding the Northern Lights. But he makes a serious mistake, which causes  all the souls in the tiny Finnish village of Hokanniemi to be transferred to the spirit plane. The spirit can't return the souls to the mortal world by himself. This is bad, because in the spirit world, the human souls will be taken to Tounela, the after-life and the Fox spirit will be punished for his mistakes. To prevent this, he puts the humans into dream-worlds of his own creation, where they will be safe for a little while.

When this happened, a young man living in the village, Hannu and his dog Ville, was outside the village, which means that they are both taken to the spirit plane, but aren't put into the dream worlds.
The fox spirit realizes that he can use them to return the humans to the mortal world, without having to do anything himself, so he gives them the task. Hannu and Ville must venture into each dream-world and rescue the humans there.

This is bit confusing and you do notice that Sundberg was a bit inexperienced as a writer. But once one has gotten past the somewhat complicated beginning, it's far from difficult to understand (and even in the beginning, one gets at least a sufficient understanding of what is happening). The comic has a simple episodic structure, in which Hannu and Ville in each dream-world must find the leading figure of the humans there, help them complete some random task, and then give them a talisman that will free the humans trapped in that dream-world.

This episodic set-up is oddly satisfying and one can see Sundberg maturing as a writer, with each chapter being better than the last, with the comic fully cohering by the third chapter. Most of the book is well-written adventure-comedy in the vein of her influences, such as Don Rosa or Hergé. What sets her apart is the element of Finnish mythology, which is skilfully woven into Hannu's dream adventures. And just as her influences, the comedy and adventure is balanced out by drama, which comes to the fore in the final chapters, and due to her growth as a writer is rather well-written.

The art is excellent from the start, yet gets even better as Sundberg learns from doing the comic and develops the beautiful and mature style she would use for Stand Still, Stay Silent.  Her beautiful natural landscapes are given more time to rightfully shine, due to the story allowing more variation than the other comic with it's wastelands. The mythological or fantastic aspect of the tale makes the influences from the national romantic painters become even more apparent, with her depictions of Tuonela and the Swan being directly inspired by Akseli Gallen-Kallela's depiction in his painting Lemmink√§inen's mother

A Redtail's dream is highly recommended. Highly original with it's use of Finnish mythology, worth a read if you're interested in fantasy and comedic adventure comics.