Tag Archives: Sweden

Review: VEI Volume I from Insight Comics

Sword & Sorcery offers a vast canvas of possibilities and it shines when there is a specific tale to tell as is the case with the new graphic novel series, VEI, written and drawn by Karl Johnsson with Sara Bergmark Elfgren as co-creator. It has proven to be a huge hit in Sweden and it is now available in English by Insight Comics.

Vei is our main character, a young woman with enough energy and drive to take on an army of giants. And Vei will need every ounce of strength she has in order to survive her quest which it so happens does involve giants. Vei has been at the mercy of god giants all her life but she has always kept her faith even when a god flings her into the ocean and leaves her to fend for herself. This only reinforces her sense of purpose as she must now return to her homeland of Jotunheim. But that is only the beginning of her journey as she finds herself caught in the Meistarileikir, a bloody game between the humans, the giants, and the gods of Asgard.

Originally serialized in Utopia, a Swedish anthology magazine similar to Heavy Metal, it is easy to see how VEI sparked a loyal following. Artist-writer Karl Johnsson and co-author Sara Bergmark Elfgren have brought to life something truly fun and original. Karl Johnsson is an illustrator and cartoonist who works in children’s books, games, movies and television. Sara Bergmark Elfgren is a writer and screenwriter best known for working with writer Mats Strandberg on the Engelsfors trilogy (The Circle, Fire, The Key). Together, Johnsson and Elfgren have created something very special and, thanks to Insight Comics, we have it all collected in an impressive hardcover edition.

This book is packed with action and information to process. You will become intimately familiar with the gods of Asgard in the same fun way as you do through Marvel Comics and then some. The secret to the success of pop culture icons like Game of Thrones is the right mix of action, characters, and wonderfully arcane bits of information. You too will look in awe as the rival gods approach byway of Bifrost the Rainbow Bridge. And you too will root for Vei as she attempts, against all odds, to secure a rightful claim to Midgard! Johnsson and Elfgren do a great job of making sure to keep all the facts straight. They even provide a section that goes over what created the great feud between Asgard and Jotunheim. And, by the way, Vei can’t resolve everything in just one book. This is only Volume One so savor it for now. This is, no doubt, Sword & Sorcery at its best.

VEI, Volume I, is a 144-page full color hardcover published by Insight Comics.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Insight Comics, Insight Editions

TV Review: WELCOME TO SWEDEN

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Editor’s Note: Vote for me on the Laugh Your Way to Sweden contest! I’m at the bottom row wearing a striped shirt. My skit is called, “People Don’t Stop Anymore.” Just go here.

Welcome to Sweden,” NBC’s comedy about a NYC accountant who falls in love with a Swedish tourist (Sundays 8/7c) has a very funny challenge. Sweden is not known for being funny. Now, England, there’s a funny country. But Sweden, not so much. It’s this dichotomy of unfunny versus funny that makes this comedy so appealing.

There’s a great mix of deadpan and absurd humor to be found here. And you’d expect that from Amy Poehler. And now we come to also appreciate the comedic talents of her brother, Greg Poehler. After 12 years as a lawyer, in 2012, Greg Poehler started doing stand-up comedy in Sweden. At the same time, he began writing the script for what became his first TV series, Welcome to Sweden, in which he plays the lead part, in addition to his roles as head writer and producer. His sister, Amy Poehler, decided to produce the show after proofreading the script.

The first episode sets the tone for this quirky romantic comedy. While most of the characters choose to hide behind a Scandinavian reserve, they are also quite crafty and/or blunt when pushed. We begin with what should be a mild, if not pleasant, exchange between a young man asking for the blessing from the father of the woman he loves. Bruce Evans (played by Greg Poehler) starts out hoping for some goodwill from Birger Wiik (played by Claes Månsson). Instead, he gets a tidal wave of passive-aggressive shyness and resistance. And it turns out that Bruce did want more than just a handshake or a pat on the back. If it were left up to him, he would have gotten full-on validation and the longest and warmest of hugs. No such luck with Papa Wiik. Then, to really floor him, Bruce gets an unequivocal answer. Viveka Börjesson (played by Lena Olin), the woman that Bruce thinks he wants as his mother-in-law, simply says no.

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The premise of the show is that one person in this equation is clearly a fish out of water. Bruce has uprooted himself to Sweden to be with the woman he loves. However, the woman he loves, Emma Wiik (played by Josephine Bornebusch) is not totally in her own element even though she has home court advantage. Emma is a bank executive. She’s the boss. People call her the “chairman of the board.” But Emma has met her match when a marketing expert seems to take over operations as she devises how to best give the bank a much needed image makeover. Diane (played by Neve Campbell) is a social media genius. Emma doesn’t even know what a meme is. Each time Diane attempts to take a flattering photo of Emma, it’s the same pained expression over and over. Diane, in frustration, tells Emma it should be impossible to maintain that same expression. This problem, like a meme, takes on a life of its own with very funny results.

I’m so glad this show popped up on my radar. It’s definitely something different. With an appealing self-deprecating charm, Greg Poehler makes a great fish out of water. It will be fun to see him at least try to overcome his situation.

To check out the show and watch free episodes, got to NBC right here.

And there’s a contest underway, that’s in its final days, where you can vote on your favorite fan tributes to the show. I couldn’t help entering. I feel that I tapped into some of that quirk factor working so well on the show. Whoever wins the most votes gets to go see the show on location in Sweden. Show your support and vote for my entry, People Don’t Stop Anymore, on the contest page right here.

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Filed under Amy Poehler, Comedy, Greg Poehler, Humor, NBC, NBC Universal, Sweden, Television

Review: ‘An Age of License: A Travelogue’ by Lucy Knisley

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Lucy Knisley snatches from the ether bits of ephemeral conversation and other momentary pleasures to present to us, “An Age of License,” her latest travelogue graphic novel. We are swept up by a whirlwind European adventure as we follow Knisley on an all-expenses paid trip of a lifetime in September of 2011. As opportunities arise, one must try to choose wisely. And so we see how Knisley fares, after some pre-travel jitters (it happens to the best of us) and she is off and running. Knisley has a clean line in the service of a direct and crisp narrative. It is a pleasure to see her continue to evolve as an autobiographical artist.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Food, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Lucy Knisley, Travel