whswhs (whswhs) wrote,


A couple of weeks ago, I started seriously reading Minna Sundberg's online graphic novel Stand Still, Stay Silent. I had actually taken a first look at it much earlier, but it began with a long prologue set in the present day that I found slow going. This time I ran across, somewhere or other, one of Sundberg's maps, which I thought astonishing both for cartographic skill and for sheer beauty, and that drew me into the main narrative. Now I've read all the online pages of "the first adventure" and as much as is available of "the second adventure"—and bought and reread the two volumes that are so far available in print.

This is a work of postapocalyptic supernatural horror, set in the Nordic countries and based on Scandinavian and Finnish folklore and legends. The prologue shows the start of the apocalypse, in our own time, as a disease spreads across the world, rather like Stephen King's Captain Trips—but people who die of it linger on as unquiet spirits. The same thing happens to most other mammals; only cats are immune and have instinctive sensitivity to supernatural threats.

Sundberg's visual art really amazes me. I particularly like her full page or double page spread; the landscapes make me think of Tolkien's watercolor landscapes, and convey the same sense of an animistic world.

The characters are interesting to read about; they've been sent out into the empty lands to explore and fetch back books from the lost ancient world (worth a lot of money!), but their sponsors got much less money than they applied for (the funding agency thought they themselves would be half the crew, which none of them had planned on), and so they couldn't recruit highly trained specialists. Instead they got, well, what as a game master I would call "player characters": a mixed lot of people with some useful skills, occasional odd talents, and really amazing quirks, such as the Norwegian woman soldier who's utterly baffled that anyone would ever read if they weren't compelled to, or the Finnish mage who's almost unable to communicate even with the one other explorer who speaks Finnish. Later on in the story they're joined by an Icelandic stowaway with totally untrained magical talent, and then by a feral kitten they rescue after its mother is eaten. There's a lot of humor about their interactions with each other, but this isn't a comedy; it's much too dark! At the same time, we do see them becoming, if not yet an effective team, at least a group of people who like working together.

I hardly ever buy graphic novels any more, for reasons both of budget and of shelf space. But I think this one is totally worth it.
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