Season’s greetings, readers. Welcome to another Infernal Review. Like the last webcomic, this one deals with a magical adventure through a wintry landscape. Doesn’t that sound nice. Some people dream of going on adventures, experiencing new things, etc, etc. Of course, one person’s fantasy can easily be another’s nightmare, and for the heroes of this series, their nightmare is actually…
While his relatives gather for their usual meeting in the spirit realm known as The Bird’s Path, the (relatively) young animal spirit Puppy-Fox accidentally causes some of the northern lights to fall to the earth, inadvertently trapping an entire village in a limbo-like realm of dreams. Afraid he’ll be punished by his parents and unable to interfere on a mortal level, Puppy-Fox quickly recruits the aid of the only two people who weren’t completely caught up in his mishap; 24 year old Hannu and his (now talking) dog, Ville. Despite their concerns and all around dissatisfaction with their circumstances, Hannu and Ville very quickly find themselves on an adventure through a land of dreamscapes and spirits in a race to save everyone they know before they all slip into the afterlife forever.
Like I said in my Gunnerkrig Court post, I have a bit of a soft spot for works that draw inspiration from myths and folklore and ARD draws very deeply from Finnish/Estonian sources. Even outside of the context of nationality, however, ARD still reads like a well illustrated retelling of folk stories, at least in the parts that feature the animal spirits. Unfortunately, the writing for ARD is nowhere close to perfect. There are numerous errors in spelling, word choice, and grammar scattered throughout the comic, but the dialogue as a whole is fine; the flaws are mostly just technical. This is understandable, as the comic is apparently written in Finnish and then translated into English. Minna Sundberg, the creator, artist, and writer of the comic, has stated that ARD is really more of a warm-up project anyways.; after she’s completed this series, she plans to take everything she’s learned and apply it to another story that she’s been wanting to make for quite some time now.
The series is broken up into chapters, with each chapter being set in a different dream world. The webcomic currently reads at five chapters and counting, plus a prologue. Hannu and Ville are told, through Puppy-Fox’s exposition explanation, that the people of their village have been seperated and trapped in several dreamscapes that Puppy created as a way of “saving” them. In order to free everyone, the two must first find the closest thing that each group of villagers has to a leader and get them to wear a specific amulet that Hannu receives at the start of each chapter. While its plot sounds rather grandiose and fantastic, A Redtail’s Dream is really more silly than anything. Whenever something strange happens, the characters just seem to shrug it off and take it in stride. The typical plot of each section beyond the first can be described as follows; Hannu and Ville wake up, Ville is disatisfied with the way he looks, Hannu is sick of being wet, they go off to find the current dream world’s person of interest, the person already knows about the situation because a spirit animal told them, but they can’t leave because there’s something that must be done first, so Hannu and Ville are forced to complete a certain task before they can leave for the next dreamscape, lather, rinse, repeat. I suppose what oddness there is in the characters’ reactions can be chalked up to “crazy dream logic”, but after a while that just feels a bit like an excuse to not write real characterization.
While the writing may be a bit weak, the art for A Redtail’s Dream is spectacular. Landscapes and panoramas are drawn in stunning, beautiful detail, like a well-defined watercolor. The colors, while somewhat muted, are rich and invocative. Every scene is awash with some kind of color, be it the chilly blues of a winter night, the purples and reds of a warm sunset, or the mossy greens of a river bed. Each dream world is seen as if through a tinted lens, and usually through a filter of snow or rain. Designs for characters are sadly a little underdeveloped, leading to secondary characters looking very much alike. Main character design is much more memorable, especially for Ville, who’s forced to take on a different animal form every chapter, albeit with distinct dog features like his fur, teeth, and tail.
As a character, Hannu spends his time lazing about and avoiding work whenever he can. This, coupled with his antisocial tendencies, is what led to his being outside the village when the comic begins. His main desires seem to consist of taking a nap and staying dry, a wish complicated by constant excursions through rain, snow, rivers, and lakes. His disinterest in the other villagers, even when they’re in danger, borders on the sociopathic; he only really decides to take on the mission because it behoovs him to do so. Despite his misanthropic demeanor, however, Hannu genuinely cares about Ville, treating him as a companion and close friend. Even though he already knows a few of his fellow villagers, his journey through the dream lands forces him to become a little more of a people person as he meets more and more of them along the way.
Ville, like Hannu, is chiefly concerned with his own wants and needs, but as he’s a dog, that’s not so surprising. The main reason he decides to embark on their mission is because he’s hungry and thinks there might be food in the dream lands. Ville’s actually the character that convinces Hannu to agree to help Puppy-Fox by crying and making him feel guilty. Despite his baser nature, Ville is really the sweetheart of the two, always acting friendly towards others (except for one little tail-pulling girl) and trying to get Hannu to interact with them. While he and Hannu rib each other a lot and make comments at each other’s expense, they truly do share the kind of loyal bond that exists between a man and his dog. Every chapter, Ville is changed into a different animal which reflects the animal spirit that dwells inside each particular dream, such as a snake, a seal, a moose, or a bear. This inconvenience is one of the main contributors to the comic’s humor.
As the instigator of the plot, Puppy-Fox is a mischievous selfish little spirit. Even his own mother admits that he’ll amount to no good. As a character, he acts more like your typical spoiled trouble-making teenager… except with godlike powers over the souls of mortal man. It becomes fairly obvious fairly quickly that he is never to be trusted.
All in all, while the comic’s writing is a little sub-par, at least in English, the art and silly adventure tone of the story can more than make up for it with the right readers. Personally, I didn’t care much for Hannu, but found Ville to be very likable and even funny. Perhaps its because, as a dog character, he can get away with more. Either way, the art alone is worth looking into and since its more of a “practice webcomic”, the promise of another webcomic with this kind of art and better writing is enticing enough. Definitely worth a read.
A Redtail’s Dream is the creative property of Minna Sundberg. This webcomic, including all images used here, belongs to her. It currently updates every day except Sunday.