Rene Engström’s Anders Loves Maria is filled with language, nudity, and indecent everyday situations that are bound to offend many people, and it has soured the words of critics whose blogging I have read. It is also a hybrid work of English infused with occasional Swedish that has been an odyssey in of itself to follow, and its concoction of honestly confronted human confusion tinged with with just enough landmarks and words to designate Sweden as the locale made this a comic more or less targeted at me. Most importantly, however, Anders Loves Maria can now upon its ending count itself among a small but growing smattering of true graphic novels that have originated on the web, been created for the web, and are unique products of the webcomic creative process.
Over the course of a three-and-a-half-year history, the artwork has evolved, stuttered, and modulated with Engström’s own abilities, experimentations and biographical blogging, which is a dimension of the storytelling process that just doesn’t exist in the same way outside of webcomics. Seeing her bring the project and story to its planned point of completion felt like it reached a destination at the close of an extended transit period, and by those metrics of success I can’t see how anyone could regret investing themselves in Anders Loves Maria‘s ongoing drama and miniature comedies surrounding two young lovers and a pregnancy neither of them were ready to deal with.
The character relationships twist and gnarl at a degree comparable to most Wes Anderson movies (even if motivations and eccentricities aren’t always as overtly stated), and Engström’s ability to ratchet them into such uncomfortable yet compelling places is commendable. Her ultimate accomplishment, though, comes in pulling them through to the narrative’s close with a few years of discernible aging. I don’t want to spoil anything on this one for people who haven’t read the ending, but it elicits the sensation of your heart turning into a medicine ball and falling about six stories.