Anneli Furmark’s Red Winter is the Most Swedish Comic Ever

Comics Reviews Drawn & Quarterly
Anneli Furmark’s Red Winter is the Most Swedish Comic Ever

STL068645.jpegWriter: Anneli Furmark
Translator: Hanna Strömberg
Publisher: Drawn + Quarterly
Release Date: January 23, 2018

Anneli Furmark’s Red Winter is just about the most Swedish book ever. Rendered in pen with washes of color, it focuses on the affair between a married woman with three children (Siv) and a younger man (Ulrik). Instead of guilt and shame and tension among family members, however, it plays out more as a story about politics, set during a very specific time in Swedish history. If you’re not Swedish or an expert on the country, you may want to spend a little time familiarizing yourself with its political context in the late 1970s, when leftist parties saw an opportunity to take power. A surprising number of discussions focus on minute political differences between different Communist organizations, which can make for a dry read. Siv’s struggle with whether or not to leave her husband is part of the book, sure, but does it measure up to Ulrik’s self-criticism for not selling enough copies of the leftist newspaper he has to distribute daily?

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Red Winter Interior Art by Anneli Furmark

All of this makes the book sound like a snooze, but it’s not, mostly. It’s just not spicy. Furmark tells her story by giving chapters to individual characters, including Siv’s adolescent children. These are the chapters that breathe, as Marita takes advantage of her time alone in the house to snoop through cupboards and her brother’s comic books and Peter rides around with his friends drinking beer. These chapters have the feeling of real adolescence, when you’re pushing a little to see how much you can rebel, and they contrast with the slow bits of the actual revolutionaries, who worry that Ulrik’s relationship with Siv could be turned against them. There are, as you might expect, plenty of nice sweaters, and it’s always snowing. Furmark’s colors lie loosely on top of her pen lines, which have a good bit of wiggle to them, suggesting a lack of sunlight. When hints of red flood the sky, it feels like life and renewal are on the way, in contrast to the darkness of most scenes. Maybe that’s a political metaphor? Or maybe it’s just beautiful. Red Winter isn’t a great book. It’s a little too soft and episodic, too focused on particulars that may not translate all that well, but it’s got plenty of atmosphere.

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Red Winter Interior Art by Anneli Furmark

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