Review by Woodrow Phoenix
The second volume of Tove Jansson’s Moomin newspaper comic strip contains four stories. This parallel universe features all the characters from her books, but with more exaggerated personalities, more likely to do nutty things at the drop of a hat if that makes for a new and interesting experience. The introspective and melancholy elements that are a key part of their appeal are still there, but condensed, and often just a state that they are either trying to reach or to escape from.
Moomin’s Winter Follies (1955) sees the Moomin family planning to hibernate as they do every winter, as they and their ancestors have always done. But when Moominpappa decides it’s too boring to go through with, they go outside and are drawn into a winter sports competition by the athletic Mr. Brisk, who bowls over Snorkmaiden and Mymble with his thrilling manliness. Moomin Mamma’s Maid (1956) introduces new neighbour, Mrs Fillyjonk, who is so appalled at the chaotic way the Moomins live–a tree in the living room and dirty dishes kept under the bed–that she shames them into hiring a maid. Will Misabel’s crushing sense of duty change the Moomins or will they change her? And what does her arrival have to do with Mrs. Fillyjonk’s sudden mysterious disappearance?
In Moomin Builds a House (1956), Mymble’s mother arrives on the Moomin family’s doorstep with her 17 very badly-behaved children, including the menace that is Little My, and Moomin is forced to move out of his room…quite a long way out. In Moomin Begins a New Life (1956), Moominvalley is turned upside down by the arrival of a prophet who tells everyone that they must change the way they live to free themselves and be happy. “But dear prophet, aren’t we fairly happy?” asks Moominmamma. “Of course not! You’re tied down by traditions and narrow ideas! Do only what you want to do instead!” As they try out their freedoms all relationships disintegrate, Moomin becomes a bandit and anarchy rules…until a new prophet arrives.
Jansson’s expert drawing is a delightful match for her brilliant scripting which zooms from one situation to the next as her characters continually push against logic boundaries challenging themselves and each other. The design of these strips is beautifully balanced. Patterns and shapes wrap around the Moomins in interesting ways, her linework is exquisite and the range of cleverly conceived character designs she comes up with is amazing. Plus, the dialogue is hilarious and touching as her cast tie each other in knots with their arguments and philosophical conversations. It’s all wonderful to look at and equally satisfying to read, and the brilliance continues in volume three.
The stories in this volume also appear in Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, a large, slipcased book which contains all 21 stories by Tove Jansson plus never-before-reprinted drawings and character designs.