Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Review: mini kuš! #46 Everyone Is Hungry by Anna Sailamaa

There seems to be an oscillation in the nature of the mini kuš! comics I’ve read over the last three years; some are wildly imaginative while others tend toward the understated and naturalistic. Anna Sailamaa’s Everyone Is Hungry falls firmly in the later camp. Its plot could be easily summed up in one sentence – A toddler eats lunch with grandma. But that distillation does little service to a fascinating comic that explores the nature of time and the essence of joy.

The most striking feature of Everyone Is Hungry is Anna Sailamaa’s colors, a seeming mix of pastels and colored pencils. The opening image gives an idea of the work to come – a hatching of blue sky, dark black trees and their limbs, and green flowing off of those lines, a verdant aura that surrounds but does not occlude those black lines. The toddler’s hands, covered in blue (is it paint? juice from berries?) leave smudges on windows, remnants of play or fascination. Sailamaa’s main character is easily recognized – the excited, joyful toddler, ready to explore the world. Lunch is soup and apples, with various eggs and mushrooms in the surrounding shot. Lunch is a messy affair – traces of color from a glass of juice, the soup, all leave their mark. Sailamaa’s emphasis on detail – the wood grain, the smudges, invite the reader to bask in each image and its intimacy.

Despite its relatively quiet storytelling, Everyone Is Hungry plays with contrasts: the hands of a child reaching for an apple followed by the hands of an elderly person breaking the apple to share; fresh apples to eat followed by decay; flowers about to bloom and followed by flowers in bloom; eggs followed by birds. Anna Sailamaa’s emphasis is on aging and growth – is it possible that the knobbly wrinkled hands that break the apple are the same childlike hands that search for it? It’s hard to say, but the other imagery lines up. Sailamaa closes the book with the opening image reimagined, in the dark of night, lights shining, the fire low. Are the trees a little fuller, a little taller at the end?

Whether this comic is a recap of a day with grandma, or a metaphorical examination of aging and the composition of life, is hard to say. No matter how you read  the book,  Everyone Is Hungry reminds readers that for all the large and personality defining memories that we carry around with us, the majority of our time is built out of tiny moments. And in their humble way, these moments have their own quiet beauty.

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