I’m very excited to talk about this Wednesday’s webcomic! Created by artist Minna Sundberg, who also made the webcomic A Redtail’s Dream, Stand Still. Stay Silent. is a post-apocalyptic tale of the first order. Here’s how its creator summarizes it:
“Stand Still. Stay Silent” is a post apocalyptic webcomic with elements from Nordic mythology, set 90 years in the future. It’s mostly a story about friendship and exploring a forgotten world, with some horror, monsters and magic on the side.”
I started reading SSSS last fall so I feel like I’m a little behind on discovering Sundberg’s work. From the initial images I saw from it, I assumed it would be inspired mostly by Japanese works like Trinity Blood, Hellsing, and Full Metal Alchemist, but it is so very much more. While the art style definitely has something manga about it, Sundberg’s technical skill and color choices really blew me away. She also thoroughly creates the world in which the story takes place, with various maps, charts, and illustrations throughout the comic.
In addition to the art being wonderful, everything else about it is wonderful. The story centers on a virus that gives people a little rash before really messing them up. This also affects animals and eventually leads to a world where the only people left alive are the ones who quarantined themselves in Iceland/Scandinavia. There is a long prologue which you should not be scared of in any way! It is as much of a delight as the rest of the comic and also totally necessary to really understand the story. In the prologue we get to see what it was like when the virus first started freaking people out (a la 2014 Ebola), and we get introduced to the ancestors of our main characters. If only we could see more of those funny characters from the prologue, who all have different ideas of what to do about the virus and how much of a threat it really is. Alas, the main comic is set 90 years later, after things have settled into a calm and desolate post-apocalypse… with lots and lots of monsters.
Yes, it’s clear that Minna Sundberg saw Carpenter’s The Thing, looked at her Finnish surroundings, and found the aesthetics pretty compatible. The monsters in this story are truly gross and scary in a way that I have rarely seen in horror webcomics. Sundberg is excellent at creating suspense and her art is detailed enough to sneak in creepy things you have to look close to find. Like the reader, the characters don’t quite understand the ruined world they explore or its slithering, bloodthirsty inhabitants. All the main characters grew up in small isolated communities after the world as we know it had been reduced dust for a few years. We at least know how things were supposed to go, which makes seeing how they turned out extra creepy for us. I mean, how does the panel below make you feel?
And inbetween those lovely, creepy moments we get to have fun with a bickering band of misfits. Ah, what a satisfying trope, and executed so well! The band of explorers includes a pampered prettyboy, an enigmatic mage, a sarcastic older doctor, a nervous but adventure-hungry girl, a boisterous viking woman, and a country bumpkin stowaway. They’ve all been hired to head out into the beastly wastelands in search of books(!), which are now in short supply and therefore very valuable. If this isn’t an interesting enough premise for you, most of them also speak different languages (Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish). So they only understand each other some of the time, which is funny. And it means we get awesome extra illustrations like this one:
Honestly, I’m not sure what else to say if you’re not convinced to give it a try. Oh right, have I mentioned there’s MAGIC?! Prepare your butt for some lovely, folk-lore-based monster-fighting stuff, as well as awesome (and, of course, creepy) dream sequences.
Stand Still. Stay Silent. is one of my new favorite comics. It’s still in progress, so if you read really fast and have a fast enough internet connection, I’m sure you could get frustrated by it. BUT it does update almost every day, which is incredible considering the complexity of the art. And, if you prefer print to online, it is being collected into volumes, which will be available… sometime? In summary, I cannot recommend this comic enough. Please go read it!