Oksi (Finnish for bear) is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Mari Ahokoivu. Originally released in Finnish and published by Asema Kustannus in August 2018, the novel was translated into English by Silja-Maaria Aronpuro and published by Levine Querido on October 26, 2021.

Cover art for original edition of Oksi
AuthorMari Ahokoivu
IllustratorMari Ahokoivu
Cover artistMari Ahokoivu (original)
Jonathan Yamakami (English translation)
PublishedAugust 2018
October 26, 2021 (English translation)
PublisherLevine Querido
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages376 (original)
400 (English translation)
ISBN978-1-64614-113-5 (English translation, hardcover edition)

Development and publication edit

Adapting story elements from Finnish folklore and mixing in aspects of sci-fi, Oksi is a fantasy novel following Umi, a mother bear.[1][2][3] Mari Ahokoivu, a Finnish comics creator, both wrote and illustrated the novel. She worked on Oksi for about five years prior to its release in 2018.[2] The novel received support from the North Ostrobothnia Regional Fund of Finnish Cultural Foundation during its development.[4]

The book was originally written in Finnish and published by Asema Kustannus in August 2018.[5][6] This version included English subtitles.[5]

The world English rights for Oksi were purchased by Nick Thomas of the publisher Levine Querido.[4] An English translation by Silja-Maaria Aronpuro was published on October 26, 2021.[7][8] Jonathan Yamakami was the cover design artist for the English translation edition.[7]

Style and themes edit

Digital art constitutes the novel's visual component, as does a mixture of ink and watercolor art.[1] Ahokoivu uses a mainly black-and-white color palette in Oksi, with grays commonplace throughout; splashes of color are also present, though less commonly.[1][9] Borderless panels are also used in Oksi.[10]

Oksi has been cited by book reviewers to have a parent–child dynamic present in its themes, similar to the folklore it is based upon.[1][9] The world in the graphic novel is primarily populated by non-human animals and spiritual entities.[9]

Reception edit

Arpad Okay of ComicsBeat wrote positively of Oksi, opining that "Stormy charcoal wash has all the bare power of black and white comic art, but within character and landscape Ahokoivu achieves layers of murk, smoke, and shadow. There aren't a lot of other artists doing this kind of genre conflation — Zao Dao [ca], Emily Carroll — and no one doing it like Oksi is."[8] Okay also wrote that Ahokoivu and Aronpuro "created a book that I've read more than once but still not enough to definitively put words to what it means to me, adding that the book is as "beautiful as it is gutting."[8]

Kirkus Reviews also offered positive commentary on Oksi, calling it "visually powerful and emotionally compelling," and adding that "the storyline meanders whimsically but then quickly shocks with its sudden eruptions of violence, a stark reminder of the harshness of the natural world and the powerful universality of wanting to belong."[1] Hillary Brown of The Comics Journal wrote that Ahokoivu's use of watercolor "with its gradations and sense of being difficult to control, is a good choice" for Oksi, aptly suggesting instability.[9] Touching on the parent–child dynamic, Brown wrote that "There's something Promethean at work here, with humans receiving the gift of fire only to turn it to violence, and Ahokoivu renders that flickering, fascinating substance repeatedly with an awareness of its transformative power."[9]

April Spisak offered a positive review of the graphic novel for The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, commending the novel's themes and artwork, stating that both graphic novel and folklore fans "will likely find [Oksi] deeply satisfying and memorable." Spisak opined that Oksi "is is a breathtaking exploration of generational connection," and added that its "digital art is ethereal, with curvy lines and dreamy forest scenes, while the palette is mostly black-and-white, making the spare use of rich, radiant colors all the more arresting."[11]

Accolades edit

Oksi was a nominee for the Sarjakuva-Finlandia [fi] prize in 2018, as well as the HelMet Award in 2019, and the Jarkko Laine Award in 2020.[6] The novel was selected as a Booklist Editors' Choice among books for youth in 2021.[12] It was also named a Bulletin Blue Ribbon book in 2021.[13]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Oksi". Kirkus Reviews. June 28, 2021. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Hill, Carlyn (May 9, 2018). "The Cute Meets Creepy Creations of Comic Artist, Mari Ahokoivu". Threadless. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  3. ^ "Oksi". mariahokoivu.com. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  4. ^ a b Johnston, Rich (January 30, 2021) [January 11, 2021]. "Mari Ahokoivu's 376-Page Graphic Novel "Oksi" Publishing in English". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Mari Ahokoivu: Oksi". Asema Kustannus. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "Oksi by Mari Ahokoivu". Goodreads. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Oksi". Levine Querido. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  8. ^ a b c Okay, Arpad (November 23, 2021). "REVIEW: Mari Ahokoivu's OKSI is a storybook on fire". ComicsBeat. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d e Brown, Hillary (January 6, 2022). "Oksi". The Comics Journal. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  10. ^ Ambaum, Gene (September 7, 2021). "Graphic Novel Review: Oksi by Mari Ahokoivu". Library Comic. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  11. ^ Spisak, April (November 2021). "Oksi by Mari Ahokoivu (review)". The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 75 (3). Johns Hopkins University Press: 84–85. doi:10.1353/bcc.2021.0567. ISSN 1558-6766.  
  12. ^ "Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 2021". Booklist. January 1, 2022. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  13. ^ Quealy-Gainer, Kate (January 2022). "Bulletin Blue Ribbons 2021". The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 75 (5). Johns Hopkins University Press: 171–175. doi:10.1353/bcc.2022.0050. ISSN 1558-6766.