Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I received a review copy of Jaakko Pallasvuo "PYYTÄJÄT," sent from Finland, and am please to announce that it is pretty damn good, worthy of your attentions if you are one who has thought about ordering comics from Finland. (I have!) The hand-lettering is in Finnish, but the dialogue is translated at the bottom of the page, in a closed-captioning effect which might not always be effective, but is in this case: The story beng told has an oblique tone of uncertainty to it, at first, and that removed distance contributes to the book's sense of mystery. Turning the page from the first to the second page, one wonders how the narrative connects, reading on, one questions the motives of characters as they being to say things that seem like lies. By the end, threads have converged, with things that initially might have seemed like jokes being developed into character depth by the end.

The comic I was most reminded of, (aside from general "this is like a European art film" sentiments) was the Ed Brubaker and Jason Lutes collaboration, The Fall, that ran in Dark Horse Presents and was later collected in a similar format by Drawn And Quarterly. Pallasvuo's drawing style, with its rough pencil line and figurework and absence of panel borders, pretty far from Lutes' polished inks- But each make their pages dense with panels, and The Fall initially withheld knowledge of the characters' pasts in favor of showing human behavior in a cryptic context. The Fall was a crime story, and had more noticeable plot forward movement, but the amount of density here stops the book from feeling slight, and makes the book read at a deliberately slow rate that allows me to be reminded of stories that were much longer. Meanwhile, the drawing is able to capture its setting, woods and a river, and natural phenomena, like light and the blur of speed ably, while still seeming of a piece with its depiction of humans and their structures as flat and childlike, reduced to iconography and texture.

The format is great: A one-shot comic, with dimensions comparable to a coloring book or a small newspaper, with endpapers depicting trees and the endpapers listing other works the publisher has handled, including translations of Americans such as Gary Panter and Jeffrey Brown, and Europeans like Ruppert and Mulot and Joann Sfar, as well as other Finnish cartoonists whose work has been translated by American publishers. The publishers' multi-cultural attitude is much appreciated, as in reading the comic in question I learned Finnish swears, which I'm pretty happy with.

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