Comics round: Kypsyyskoe (Villimpi Pohjola #3) by JP Ahonen & Vain pahaa unta by Aino&Ville Tietäväinen

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics, but over the spring I’ve read two that I’d love to talk about. One of them was a lucky find from a second hand bookshop and the other a spur of the moment pick from the library. Moreover, both are Finnish which means they count towards my 15 in 2015 challenge! Unfortunately neither of them has been translated into English, but I’ve included some pictures to give you a sense of the drawing style.

Disclaimer: Neither of these books have, unfortunately, not been translated into English. Thus all the excerpts here have been translated by yours truly.


It all began in 2003 as a series of Sunday strips depicting student life. Today the Villimpi Pohjola series is a cult phenomenon and has a steady but growing fanbase. From separate slapstick panels and single moment stills, the story has matured to contain larger story arcs. From the large cast of characters of the previous albums only the core are left and they continue to develop their identity from page to page. More than anything, the troupe of friends now faces the challenges of serious relationships, falling in love and loss. Kypsyyskoe (eng. Maturity test) presents the everyday situations from a new angle – without forgetting the omnipresent twinkle in the eye. The series is a mixture of the everyday life of a student, pop culture references, drama and parody.

I’ve been following the Villimpi Pohjola comic series for about 5 years on and off, but I became almost obsessed back in 2014 when I discovered that the artist had published entire albums. The series now has four albums that have been published (plus a compiled version of the first two) and I’ve been tracking down to collect them all. A few months ago I was hanging out in the centre with my friend – waiting to see The Theory of Everything – when we stopped by this second hand bookshop that had put books on display outside. I had heard that the third album in question, Kypsyyskoe (eng. Maturity Test), was about to sell out and had contemplated on ordering it, when I chanced to see it from the shop window. It only took me a couple minutes to fish out my money and sprint to the counter and smiling from ear to ear.

The name of the third album, Maturity Test, refers to the test that students have to take after submitting their thesis to prove that they can write properly. However, the title is also apt because instead of showing simply young students getting into all sorts of scrapes and living life to the fullest, it focuses a lot more on maturing and becoming an adult (aka. adulting). There are many different storyline that alternate, but alongside those are also the crazy, laugh-out-loud, and slapstick-y moments that really make the series what it is. It doesn’t try to take itself too seriously despite the fact that it sometimes deals with serious topics.



Art ©JP Ahonen; Photo ©Dawn of books

WSOY, 2013

When a child has a nightmare, it’s the adult’s job to step up and explain that everything is okay. The nightmares of young girl Aino derive from everyday situations as well as from the collective consciousness. In her dreams, Fluffy has gone missing, giant high-heels-wearing hares chase her in the woods and daddy has transformed into a drawing of dark black lines that doesn’t even look like daddy.  Even the scariest things can be trapped on paper, and thought the dream is sometimes SO bad that you can even put it in a book, talking about it to a grown-up helps!

Vain pahaa unta (eng. Only a Bad Dream) was nominated a few years back for the esteemed Childrens’ Finlandia prize and also caused a lot of discussion about the images that children are exposed to through the media. The author duo are a father and daughter, who have together collaborated a book based on the daughter’s nightmares. Ville Tietäväinen is a well-known illustrator and a comic artist and Aino is his 7-year-old daughter. The book presents a collection of Aino’s nightmares from the ages of 4 to 6 as well as small strips presenting discussions between the father and the daughter about these nightmares and about seeing nightmares.


Art ©Aino & Ville Tietäväinen; Photo ©Dawn of books

Despite the fact that it’s been a long time since I saw nightmares such as these, even the absurd fears of Aino truly spoke to me and moved me – and made me feel like they were my nightmares. The book is quite short but it is filled with details and points that make you stop and consider about the things behind these nightmares. Some of the nightmares, such as The Hotel (age 4)(pictured above), really show how something seen in the news or in a film can transform into a very frightening nightmare. After reading Only a Bad Dream I pushed it to many people and talked about it with many of my friends. I liked how the art combined the drawings of Aino with those of his father and also how the narration moved across the pages. I only wish that the book would have had a longer foreword or an afterword, because despite the strong visual effect of the book, I would have wanted to read more about the nightmares and about the exchanges between these two artists.

EDIT: A few pages of the book have been translated into English and can be found from the Books from Finland website.




Comics round: Fables, vol. 1 by Bill Willingham & Pelinavaus (Villimpi Pohjola, #1-2) by JP Ahonen

Because I read two comics/graphic novels in December, I decided to feature them in the same review post. I generally don’t read a lot of comics, but this year I’ve been exposed to so many that it has naturally been reflected in my own reading. I hope you enjoy these quick reviews, and if you have any suggestions for other graphic novels/comics to read, I’d love to hear them!

DC COMICS, 2002/2001

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White’s party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown’s sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf (Bigby Wolf), to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose’s ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

In the past year or so fairy tale re-tellings have truly surfaced in popularity as can be seen with many popular book series (cf. Lunar Chronicles, Cruel Beauty Universe, The Snow White Trilogy) as well as many film adaptations. So it is no surprise that a comic series begun in the early 2000s has also received a small upsurge among book bloggers. As it happens, on the first day of December I was returning some of my library loans and I saw this sitting in the “recently returned” shelf. Now, I had vowed in my December Plans post NOT to check out any books from the library in December, but since there was no clause about reading books in the library, I decided to stretch my library visit with another hour and sat down to read Fables, vol 1: Legends in Exile. Cheeky, I know.

The synopsis pretty much explains the setting for this comic series: The universe has another world, the land of the fairy tales, but for some mysterious reason, the characters of the legends and fairy tales have been forced to leave their world and live in ours. They have settled into New York, and have their own secret community, Fabletown, that protects them and keeps them in order. Snow White is the vice mayor who runs everything, The Big Bad Wolf is (ironically) the sheriff of the community, and together they are trying to find out what happened to Rose Red, who has tragically disappeared. Naturally there are also a plethora of other characters, such as Prince Charming – Snow White’s ex-husband and a shameless lothario – , that are involved in solving the case.

Most of the Fables, vol 1: Legends in Exile is centered around the mystery of Rose Red’s disappearance, but the story does also feature some flashbacks to explain why and how the fable characters left their world. The art style is reminiscent of some superhero and detective comics, with sharp, dark lines and contrasting colors. Because it is the first volume, it has to do a lot of introduction to the characters as well as some explanation of their situation, but at the end of the volume there were still so many questions left unanswered that I feel I have to read the next one as soon as possible. The fact that the second volume is titled Animal Farm has me even more excited for it. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading a bit grittier and more adultish fairy tale re-telling.



Disclaimer: This book has, unfortunately, not been translated into English. Thus all the excerpts here have been translated by yours truly.

Published since 2003, the Villimpi Pohjola series is a comic series about a group of friends who grow physically and on the side attempt to grow mentally as well. The core of this group of students consists of both men and women; however, their characters are very opposite which only seems to strengthen their friendship. For example, Rontti believes himself to be a gift to the womankind, and is so convincing in his preaching that many women take him for his word. Muusa tries to hold tight to her youthful dream and believe in future without expectations, duties and responsibilities. The Villimpi Pohjola series is a combination of relationship comic, parody and pop culture references. Pelinavaus (eng. The Opening) combines the first two self-published works, from 2007 and 2009, as the best of the early series. This collection also contains some new, previously unpublished material.

This comic book was a Christmas gift from my brother and I’m so glad that I finally have it. As some of you might remember, I did go a bit backwards with this comic series by purchasing the fourth volume in October and reading it immediately after that. I’d previously read the Villimpi Pohjola series in the local newspaper and loved how witty and sometimes very on point it is about some pop culture phenomena.

This collection features comics all the way from 2003 to 2009, with some additions drawn in 2013, and they are not organised chronologically. In the beginning I was actually very surprised to see how much Ahonen’s drawing style had changed during the ten year period and it took me a while to get used to the stylistic changes. However, later on I truly appreciated the variety as it showed not only how the characters had progressed in the series, but also how his style has progressed throughout the years. Although I must admit that I do like the current style a lot more than the earlier ones.

As I mentioned, I read The Opening after I had read the fourth book, Lapsus, so the characters were already familiar to me. This meant that I had a certain idea of most of them, and that the collection only gave me more background on how the series had started. This book also had a lot more university related jokes and phenomena that naturally appealed to me very much. All in all, I really enjoyed The Opening, but not quite as much as I’d enjoyed Lapsus. It might be the case where what I read first will always be the best because it is associated with the joy of discovering something brilliant (I tend to have the same problem with music as well).

I was under the impression that this comic series hadn’t been translated, but it turns out that the first two volumes were actually translated into English by the artist himself – under the title Northern Overexposure! However, those two volumes (and translations) are now out of print, and the later works (including this collection) have not been translated – which is a pity! However, should these ever get translated into English (or other languages), I’d highly suggest that you read them!


My review of Kypsyyskoe (#3) AND Lapsus (#4).