Graphic Novel Review: Oksi by Mari Ahokoivu

Oksi by Mari Ahokoivu. Translated from Finnish by Silja-Maaria Aronpuro. Levine Querido, 2021. 9781646141135. 408pp.

This graphic novel is a great example of how well illustrations, words, and comics’ storytelling tools can work together. Here they create an entirely immersive story set in the world of Finnish mythology. The borderless panels on each page makes it look like a kids book, but it isn’t for kids, or at least not little ones, which you might think at first glance. There’s darkness, death, beauty, magic, and huge, frightening gods and shadows inside. Magic and fire and the light of the northern lights stand in stark contrast to the dark and snowy forest. It all reminded me of a Miyazaki movie, though it’s not like any of them.

Umi is a mama bear, but one of her cubs, Poorling is different, and doesn’t have claws or sharp teeth. Scaup, a tricky waterbird, teaches this cub to use her strengths, which include magic and fire. (It becomes clear that the mama bear was drawn the earth’s forest, from where her mother Emmu dwells in the northern lights, and that Emmu is angry with her.) After Umi disowns Poorling, Poorling tries to use her power to get back in her mother’s good graces, with terrible results for her brothers. It’s all related to the darkness of the giant being Mana, who was expelled from the heavens, and the freaky bipedal shadows that also dwell in the forest.


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