Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Moomin and the Comet is number seventeen of Tove Jansson’s 21 stories originally created in daily, black and white comic strips for the London Evening News between 1954 and 1959. Unlike the others, this one is an adaptation of an earlier Moomin novel. In this case it’s Comet in Moominland, condensed into a much simpler narrative.
A strange cloud with a distinctive shape appears in the sky over Moominvalley: “Must be an omen!” Snorkmaiden exclaims, and one by one everyone flees this unsettling astral phenomenon until only the moomins are left. The foreboding and unearthly atmosphere of the novel is less existentially scary in this strip, but there is still plenty of weirdness and perhaps a prescient taster of the effects of climate change as the seas dry up and there’s no water anywhere as the comet approaches. There is no escape for anyone and the oncoming disaster is really a test of character. What does a moomin do in the face of certain doom?
This newer series of small, landscape format, flexicover books takes the Moomin strips and repackages them in individual volumes with each story newly coloured by the editorial team at Drawn & Quarterly to give each small book extra kid-friendly appeal. Unfortunately the colouring is frequently at odds with Jansson’s art, introducing graphic shapes, adding background ‘enhancements’ which disrupt her original layouts, and using eccentric colour palettes that don’t complement the images too well.
These small flexicover books appear under D&Q’s children’s imprint Enfant, but Tove Jansson created these strips to entertain newspaper-reading adults. While these stories appear visually to be a perfect fit for children, the ideas, dialogue and situations are often quite abstract. Jansson is an expert with layered narratives so that all her stories work on multiple levels, but the philosophical commentary in this tale will fly over children’s heads entirely and need explaining. Next in the series is Moomin and the Golden Tail.