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Comics review: Tove Jansson's ''Moomin''

A collection of Finnish writer-artist Tove Jansson’s whimsical cartoons wins kudos from Ken Tucker. Plus: the travails of mysterious vigilante Simon Dark, and the latest from the Luna Brothers

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Comics review: Tove Jansson’s ”Moomin”

MOOMIN: THE COMPLETE TOVE JANSSON COMIC STRIP, VOL. 2
Tove Jansson
(Hardcover)
Finnish writer-artist Tove Jansson created the Moomins — friendly, philosophical creatures that are part-hippo, part-troll, part-blobby shapes — in a series of short novels in 1945. Their blithe whimsy appealed to both children and adults, and the books became bestsellers throughout Europe, with a cult following in America. Now Stateside publisher Drawn & Quarterly has begun the task of reprinting the comic-strip version of Moomin, which the late Jansson began drawing in 1954, in a series of beautiful, large-sized editions. The newly released Vol. 2 follows the Moomins through a series of loosely structured scenarios with titles like ”Moomin’s Winter Follies” and ”Moomin Builds a House.” FOR FANS OF… Krazy Kat; E. Nesbit novels. DOES IT DELIVER? Jansson’s comic strips are usually three-panel installments that move the stories ahead briskly. What makes them distinctive to American readers is their calm, quizzical tone — the Moomin creatures are constantly questioning their motives, desires, and purpose in life. Yet this doesn’t prevent them from also being very active creatures, engaging in elaborate snowball fights, sailing across freezing seas on ice floes, building houses…. The effect is at once stimulating and dreamy. Jansson wasn’t the most deft illustrator — there’s a nice looseness to the drawing, though sometimes there doesn’t seem to be enough room left in a panel for all the words she wants to cram in — but this only adds to the charming uniqueness of the series. A- — Ken Tucker

SIMON DARK
Steve Niles and Scott Hampton
(Monthly; issue No. 2 is on sale now)
The mysterious, amnesiac, and possibly undead vigilante Simon Dark prowls the streets of Gotham City at night, violently dispensing with the criminal element. As for the medical examiner pursuing him? She’s as confused as he is. Meanwhile, a sulky goth teenager is a likely candidate for understanding, his, you know, heart. FOR FANS OF… Since Mr. Dark is literally sewn together from body parts, Frankenstein is an unavoidable reference point. Beyond that, Simon’s sweater looks to be modeled on Freddy Krueger’s, and his noggin on Leatherface’s. DOES IT DELIVER? The narration and dialogue provided by Niles (30 Days of Night) is heavy-handed — there’s even a bad guy speaking in Latin on page 1. And while Hampton’s moody artwork adds personality, the faces could use some definition: I still can’t tell if that be-necktied detective and that be-necktied henchman are supposed to be the same guy. B- — Sean Howe

THE SWORD
The Luna Brothers
(Monthly; issue No. 2 is on sale now)
Dara Brighton is an unlucky-in-love paraplegic college student. In short, our heroine has enough on her plate even before three superpowered dinner-crashing strangers kill her family and leave her for dead after questioning Dara’s father about the whereabouts of a mysterious sword. That would be the same sword, we assume, which Dara locates at the end of the first issue — and miraculously enables her to walk from the burning remains of the Brighton family house at the start of the second. FOR FANS OF… Buffy the Vampire Slayer. DOES IT DELIVER? Not yet. These first two issues are slow, wordy, and derivative. But the same could have been said of the early entries in the Luna Brothers’ ultimately addictive battle-of-the-sexes horrorfest Girls. B- — Clark Collis