When I read my first regular webcomic, Clan of the Cats, I was quickly dragged into it and found myself devouring over a year’s worth of archives in one sitting (which was quickly followed by CRfH due to the Halloween crossover happening between the comics). Since then, every once in a while I’ll find a comic that just grabs me by the scruff of the neck and insists “read me. Now.” And while this urge comes upon me less and less often these days, today I found one such comic with the mythic comic A Redtail’s Dream.
The amusing thing is, I’ve had this comic on my reading list for a couple of weeks now. I was drawn in by an advertisement and never got off the first couple of pages (in which some spirit-foxes were discussing business in the spirit-world while eating snacks). While it seemed interesting enough, the spark just wasn’t hitting. It wasn’t until a dozen or so pages in that I found dry kindling igniting and the flames starting to spread quickly. Before I knew it, I was busy reading and had thrown away my planned commentary article to finish this comic and review it promptly.
While the comic utilizes some elements of Finnish mythology (and to be honest has a mythic feel to it that made me think of American Indian mythology), this is the delightfully mad invention of Minna Sundberg, and focuses on Hannu Viitanen and his dog Ville as they travel the spirit world trying to reclaim the souls of people from his village after a fox-spirit had an “oops” and trapped the souls of his village by mistake. Well, there’s more to it than that, but in each chapter our hero and his dog (who can speak in the spirit world, and who in each new world is a different form – including a seal, a snake, and a bear) have to fulfill some task before the people there can go home.
What’s even more interesting is that our protagonist is not the nicest of people. He doesn’t like people and wants to avoid talking to others if possible (while Ville finds no problem with talking to others and drags Hannu along – physically, sometimes). He used to shoot small animals with a crossbow just for fun (rats, mostly) and doesn’t like physical work. Nor is he “learning” a lesson along the ways. He’s doing what he has to because if he doesn’t, people may die. He may die. But he grumbles along the way and if there were anyone else who could do this, he would. In short, he’s human, and delightfully so.
As a brief aside, I need to mention that Sundberg’s work ethic is enough that Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary would be impressed. Each comic takes about eight hours a day on average to make. She crafted enough comics to have a sizeable buffer and updates six days a week. And what’s more? This is just a practice comic. This comic, which has run for nearly 400 pages (and has another couple hundred pages to go) is meant to improve her skills before she starts work on her real project (and which she’ll be jumping right into as soon as she’s finished drawing A Redtail’s Dream). I am truly impressed by the amount of work she’s putting into what is in effect a trial run.
The truly scary thing is that A Redtail’s Dream is a damn fine comic. The early artwork is good, and it does not show any massive shifts in design even as Sundberg refines her craft. Nor did I detect any problems with her storytelling. In short, she has created as a trial run a comic that easily would be worth publishing. I don’t know what she has planned for her masterpiece work, but when it begins I will definitely read it. In the meantime, I strongly recommend this comic… but only if you have a couple hours to spare. Because otherwise you’ll be up unto the wee hours of the morning reading it… and won’t regret that choice one bit.