MOOMIN 3 and BERLIN BOOK TWO reviewed by Booklist

“Booklist Review - Moomin 3 and Berlin Book Two” / Booklist / Gordon Flagg / January 16, 2009

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, v.3. By Tove Jansson. 2008. 104p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (9781897299555). 741.5.
First published December 1, 2008 (Booklist).

The third collection of Moomintroll family comic strips contains five stories. Although they proceed in tripartitioned rectangles (stacked four on a page), reflecting their original newspaper format, their narrative flow doesn’t stutter a bit. It’s as if they were conceived as wholes, despite their story lines’ essential capriciousness. In them, the family faces flood, Martians, lighthouse-keeping, and club life (clubs were big in the newly leisured 1950s, the strip’s era, to which it otherwise gives scant notice), and Moomin, the young male character, falls briefly for a siren. They’re keenly delightful, like Wind in the Willows for adults, especially those who aren’t too adult. —Ray Olson

Berlin: v.2, City of Smoke. By Jason Lutes. 2008. 200p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, paper, $19.95 (9781897299531). 741.5.
First published December 15, 2008 (Booklist).

The second volume of Lutes’ historical epic about Weimar-era Berlin opens amid the aftermath of the May Day riots of 1929, as the relationship between the central figures, journalist Kurt Severing and artist Marthe Muller, grows strained while the battle between fascism and communism escalates in the streets. Kurt becomes more involved with the political situation, and Marthe descends into the city’s demimonde. Outstanding among the rest of the sprawling tale’s cast are young Silvia Braun, orphaned by the riots and taken in by Pavel the scavenger, and the Cocoa Kids, a black jazz band from America, who find heady but dangerous freedom in hedonistic Berlin. Lutes deftly limns the period’s epochal events by focusing not on history-makers but on writers, artists, homosexuals, and Jews, whose freedom will soon be trampled. Using a straightforward visual approach reminiscent of the clear-line school of European cartoonists, Lutes dispassionately depicts horrific events as well as the tender moments that circumstances—the volume ends with the September 1930 elections, in which the Nazis saw huge gains—will make increasingly precious. 

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