Writer & artist: Emma Rendel
Publisher: Kartago förlag
Summary: A female priest arrives a small island, that always seem to be on fire from a distance, with 53 inhabitants. They're very enthusiastic about religion and the new priest at first. But as the days pass it becomes clear that they're all hiding something, something about a little girl dying.
My thoughts: First swedish comic I review here. Neat.
There're a lot of aspects of this story that are open to interpretation. Is the island haunted or are the people living on it suffering from a mass psychosis? What does it mean that some people on this island are drawn as Disney-esque anthropomorphic animals while others seem fully human? How connected to the island is the ferryman? How many of the minute details in the art have a serious purpose in the story and how many of them are just there to screw with the reader? It does make the story interesting to discuss with other people or just to ponder by yourself. It's pretty clear that the comic isn't really interested in offering up any easy answers and wants the readers to come up with their own thoughts and answers. It does also help the reader to get engaged in the story.
At its best the story is a semi-subtle look into the workings of the mentality of large but confined groups. Everybody on the island knows each other, talks to one another and they're in agreement that their little slice of the world should be a certain way and everybody is eager to make it clear that they've done absolutely nothing wrong, they're part of the group after all. This is perhaps the one thing that the story seems pretty firm about. That this kind of group mentality is not a good thing. Not just because the people on the island are trying to cover up some truly horrible things, but also because it's a system that just isn't sustainable. The pressure is on like mad for everybody to fit with the group and if you show the slightest crack you're. It's quite fascinating really.
The mood in the story is especially captivating. It's got a feeling of suspense like an old crime thriller (of the swedish or brittish variety that is) where there's a pressing darkness over a seemingly idyllic slice of earthly heaven. There're elements that could be described as horror, dark and haunting imagery that's only softened by the goofy art style. But mainly, there's just this eerie feeling that while you're getting enough chunks of the story to figure out what's going on on this islands there's still pieces, vital pieces, just out of your eyesight. Like a bogeyman you think is behind you but you just don't know. At the same time, you never get the sense that the main character is in any kind of danger. She's the one untouchable person on the island who just happens to be surrounded people doomed by the consequences of their actions. Since she's the point of view character it does make sense that the reader can't get the full view of everything. It never approaches her in full after all.
I usually don't discuss the art, mainly because my opinions on art are usually that I either like it or I don't. But here the art feels pretty damn important. It's intentionally silly and cartoonish and it doesn't really fit the dark and serious nature of the story, at least that's the first impression most would have. But after reading it, it becomes difficult to imagine what kind of art style would fit the story without completely changing the tone of the whole thing. If you make it more realistic or grittier or more like film noir you lose that bogeyman feeling I spoke of before and it becomes much more like so many other crime series out there rather than its own thing. That said, I still don't personally care for the art style. It looks weird and unpolished (again, intentionally) and is just unappealing to me.
Flugornas Ö is a weird and interesting little comic that's unlike anything I've read in quite some time and it has a lot of neat aspects with it's dark tone, simple art style and a narrative that forces the reader to think and interpret what they've just read. But in spite of those good aspect I never felt like it all came together into anything that made me feel anything beyond that. In short, an interesting story but not much else.
Grade: 3 - Solid