Long Lost Lempi – Issues 1, 2, 3
By Adam Vian
That’s Lempi up there on the cover to Issue I. Lots of her. A small girl, little Lempi is nonetheless packed full of energy, with a head that looks a little like a fish (actually a lot, but don’t let on, Lempi gets a little embarrassed). In these three comics, along with friends Melisse and Ermin she has some delightfully weird adventures, whether they’re searching for a missing ocean, discovering a pirate Genie and his lamp, or getting waylaid aboard a submarine that also happens to be a circus the tales are all very gentle, with a sense of mild fantasy, a pleasant meandering daydreaming quality to them. There’s definitely something of Tove Jansson’s Moomins about it, or for a more recent touchstone, Luke Pearson’s excellent Hilda tales, which are of course, Moomin-esque themselves.
Being compared favourable to Tove Jansson’s tales is, of course, always a good thing.
(Next panel…. “UNF!”)
There’s a delightful lightness of spirit going all the way through Long Lost Lempi, something gentle and sweet, cute without being overly cutesy, sure the stories here are light on plot, but they’re big of heart and full of imaginative fantasy, even a sense of dream-logic at times.
To give you an idea of the wonderfully gentle fantasy were looking at with Long Lost Lempi, you simply need to take a look at the titles for the comics:
I: In which a raindance is quite perfectly performed.
II: Upon which a great deal of dust has settled.
III: In which fortune favours the misfortunate.
In the first issue, Lempi’s looking for an ocean with her friends; they have the boat, they have the paddle, all they really need is to locate the water, but it seems to be somewhat absent. Turns out they’re not lost, they just never considered the possibility that they could be standing on the ocean floor already, complete with a mermaid equipped with her own convenient and life-saving supply of water in a cauldron. Curioser and curioser indeed. The paddle turns into a rainstick, a raindance is performed, everyone ends up happy.
The second issue is my particular favourite, with Lempi’s adventures onboard a pirate ship uncovering a genie, not a nice one and terrible at the housework. Things get weird very quickly, as the Genie gets out and traps Lempi in the magic lamp. But that’s not the weird bit. No, the weird bit starts after that, when Lempi rubs herself with a feather duster (she can’t reach without it – the little arms you see) and ends up transferring all three wishes to the duster instead…. just like this:
Finally, issue 3 features a bizarre circus / submarine thing. There’s a little mistaken identity, a friend goes missing, there are special masks, runaways, people being fired out of cannons, everything you might expect from ‘the greatest show on Earth‘, just with a little Lempi gentle strangeness thrown in.
Sweet, gentle, non-threatening stories are the order of the day here. Even when something potentially nasty does happen, such as Lempi getting trapped inside the Genie’s lamp in issue 2 or the temporary loss of Melisse to a very unusual circus in issue 3, there’s never a sense that any of this end will end any way but well, no sense that anyone is going to be hurt. But that’s no complaint, this is something to relax into, let it flow along, luxuriate in the strangeness, the dreamy, poetic nature of it.
There’s only one thing I can criticise Vian for with Lempi, and it’s something that’s already been rectified in subsequent issues. It’s the initial storytelling and pace in issue 1, early on, that simply seems wrong. It all seems to clipped and comes across as sharp rather than what I know Vian was attempting to do, which was to make it very fast and zippy, dialogue bouncing from one character to the other then back again. So a stoccato touch is a good way to do this, lots of clipped, short sentences, to and fro.
But when you combine this with Vian’s artistic choices, the deliberately small and plentiful panels on each page it does fall down a little. There simply isn’t the room in each panel to have more than one figure talking, so any conversation has to involve multiple panels, a new person speaking in each new panel. The panel transitions may be fast, but they still put just a little pause in place, and that’s enough to affect the rhythm. However, once we’re into the second issue things settle down, there’s a more natural pace to it, things seem less abrupt, more conversational.
Aside from this one relatively minor thing, the artwork is a delight, clipped narrative or not, the stylistic monochrome look from the cover continuing inside, Vian’s sharp contrasts keeping everything simple, minimalist backgrounds done well.
In the end, Vian’s cutesy little comic is a delightful little thing, something to spirit you away to less complicated, more weird shores where you’re just as likely to encounter mermaids in a drought, genies who need a good cleaner or submersible circuses. It is a load of fun to read and look at, a wonderfully little thing.
More details at the Long Lost Lempi site.