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Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Vol. 3
posted October 23, 2008


Creator: Tove Jansson
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 104 pages, October 2008, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781897299555

I'm a little too in love with the Moomin strips to craft a credible review, but sometime it's worth talking about the objects of one's affections in order to that someone else might learn to love that thing, too. Drawn and Quarterly's ongoing efforts to reprint all of Tove Jansson's strips featuring her durable Moomin characters reaches the halfway point in fine form, with five adventures that show off various strengths of the strip. The first two serials are the best: in "Moomin Falls In Love," our lead becomes infatuated with the beautiful Miss La Goona (she's beautiful as a kind of declarative point rather than automatically impressing this upon anyone) which in turn leads to several funny back and forth moments between Moomin and Snorkmaiden and then a series of mishaps with at least three comedic confrontations before the serial's end. "Moominvalley Turns Jungle" gives Jansson the opportunity to draw several lovely animals and allows her another shot at the always fruitful Moomin themes of the impact of immediate environment and the illusion of drastic change. It's hard to be as fond of "Moomin and the Martians," "Moomin and the Sea" and "Club Life in Moominvalley." "Moomin in the Sea" in particularl proves to be something of a rambling mess whose satisfying comedic conclusion fails to redeem the general, limp nature of its various narrative threads. The final story proves interesting mostly in that you realize how much of the humor is dependent on a surface familiarity with many of the characters; a dozen short serials in, and Jansson has a mature strip on her hands and can do things that American strip cartoonists won't dare until year 11 or 12.

One of the reasons I find it difficult to write about the Moomins is that I don't know yet how the art works. At times the figure drawing depends on the cartoonist's ability to manipulate the thin lines with which she builds her lead to communicative effect: they bend and scowl and flounce and throw tantrum with much more drama than any bean-shaped figures should be able to muster. Yet there's also this powerful secondary effect Jansson realizes with these suddenly solid shapes: trees and nighttime air, the rocks and mines of the sea-side episode, even many of the smaller, more twee character designs. It's like watching someone write with her art but then also put in bold moments of decoration around that writing. It's incredibly appealing if you can stand the bohemian milieu and the general emotional tone. I think I shall ask it to go steady.