Review: mini kus! #40 – 1944 by Hanneriina

A few times each year, Kus, the Latvian comics
publisher, puts out a collection of mini comics. These mini-kus are by creators
from around the world, and I’ve reviewed a few of them over the past two years.
And while many of those comics were good, none has been as personally impactful
as Hanneriina Moisseinen’s 1944. Drawn using graphite, the comic is a
black and white story of one family evacuating their homes during a time of
war, and the costs of conflict.

During the later part of World War II, in the
summer of 1944, Finland, which was then aligned with Nazi Germany, was attacked
by the Soviets during what is now known as the Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive. 1944
shows the Finnish retreat as the Soviet Airforce bombed large swaths of land
inside Finnish Karelia. The main strategic Soviet goal was to force Finland out
of the war. Finnish-Russian peace was reached three months after the
Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive.

Moisseinen’s 1944 tells the story of a
single Finnish family caught in the fighting. Being evacuated from their farm,
and having only two minutes to leave before the bombing begins, two civilians
and a soldier must face a hard choice – what to do with the pregnant cow that
is giving birth? A milkmaid, caretaker and midwife, guards the cow and her herd.
But when the calf comes, wobbly and hungry, it gets a first and last meal of
mother’s milk before being summarily executed for being “too weak to survive
the journey.” No thought given to carrying the animal or moving it in a cart –
death is the only option, the only narrative that makes any sense for people
who have been embroiled in war.

When the history books talk about war in troop
movements, battalions, and land seized and forfeited, it is easy to forget the
human consequences of war. Not just the death and destruction of homes, but the
degradation of humanity and mercy. Moisseinen’s illustration captures the panic
and clouded minds of its characters with murky graphite and wild eyes. Things
seem to slide in and out of the light as the comic moves from panel to panel,
and 1944’s emotional heft is instinctual and animal in origin.

As the mother cow brawls for her baby, the herd
is rounded up and moved, presumably to someplace away from Soviet bombing. But
even retreat is not easy, and comes with significant costs.

In 1944, Moisseinen takes the
unspeakable, unfathomable pain and suffering of one of humanity’s greatest
conflicts and boils it down into a personal, heartbreaking tragedy. If there is
any solace to be found here, it is that Moisseinen’s characters move forward.
Not easily. But they move.

Hanneriina Moisseinen

is an artist from Finland. 1944 is an excerpt from Moisseinen’s larger graphic novel The Isthmus (Kannas, 2016), which is published in Finnish with English subtitles by Kreegah Bundolo. Moisseinen’s previous work includes Sen synty (2005), Sets and Scores (Setit ja partituurit, 2010), and Father (Isä, 2013). 

Kuš komiksi (tumblr: @kushkomikss ) is a Latvian comics publisher that in addition to its kuš and mini kuš comics has a goal to promote and develop comics culture in Latvia and feature Latvian cartoonists. You can see more of their books and buy a half-year subscription to their titles at their website.

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