A young Finnish man and his dog get stuck in a fox spirit's dream

While guiding the Aurora Borealis across the sky, a mischievous young fox spirit accidentally traps an entire Finnish town in a land of slumber. Now the only hope for restoring everything to normal is Hannu, a grouchy young slacker, and his faithful dog Ville, who must convince their fellow villagers to return to the waking world—and steer clear of the mythological beasts that threaten to kill them along the way.

Minna Sundberg's webcomic A Redtail's Dream is a complete, 500+ page comic, and if you enjoy it, you can preorder copies of the print volume through IndieGoGo.

A young Finnish man and his dog get stuck in a fox spirit's dream

One evening, the fox spirits gather for their regular meeting, where they laugh and snipe and eat delicious buns. To avoid interference from their youngest member, Puppy-Fox, they leave Puppy-Fox in charge of guiding the Northern Lights, figuring it's a task that even he can't screw up. Alas, the transit went awry, placing the villagers' souls in a dream-like reality. Hoping to restore everything to normal before the other foxes get out of their meeting, Puppy-Fox enlists the two denizens of the village who were not trapped in the dream reality: Hannu and his (now talking) dog Ville.

The prologue and first chapter of A Redtail's Dream are a bit slow, and the dialogue a bit awkward, but as soon as the comic reaches its second chapter, it becomes clear how rich it is, not only in its art but also in its dialogue and worldbuilding. In each chapter, Hannu and Ville must find a "leader" of the village and convince that leader to bring a group of villagers back to the waking world. Even though the villagers realize that they're dreaming, the each leader refuses to leave the dream until they've accomplished a certain task within it, tasks that Hannu and Ville must ultimately help them complete.

It sounds like a simple enough structure to a story, with the two young people accomplishing herculean labors until they reach the final level, but there are some wonderful surprises along the way. For one thing, Hannu and Ville feel like fully realized characters who have a deep bond with one another and longstanding relationships with many of the other villagers. And there's more to the story than simply accomplishing goal after goal; the comic is also filled with dialogues on dying and killing, and how superior creatures view the lives of inferior ones. These dialogues add to the comics tension (there are many places where Hannu and Ville appear to be in genuine danger, either from monstrous creatures or mere despair), and it's colored by the differences in their personalities. Hannu is morose with a grim sense of humor while Ville (whose shape changes throughout the comic) is very much a dog, with a sweeter, simpler view of the world.

Sundberg draws on Finnish folklore for her story's fantastical elements, which gives her comic a different flavor from so many fantasy webcomics. And it's delightfully macabre in a way that's playful without venturing into the gothic. But what makes it truly standout is what sits at its heart: two not particularly heroic, not particularly brave, and not particularly noble creatures trying to do their best to save their village in the face of divine forces, and trudging through snow, baiting monsters, and facing their own mortality to do it.

[A Redtail's Dream]