‘Stand Still, Stay Silent:’ A masterclass in world building

Minna Sundberg's Stand Still Stay Silent is a gorgeously-illustrated tale of life in and around a postapocalyptic Icelan -Hiveworks

“Stand Still, Stay Silent” (SSSS) is a comic set in the future after a devastating plague transforms almost every human and animal into unnatural abominations designed to keep the plague alive.

The only survivors to this world-ending event were in isolated areas throughout Scandinavia, along with the whole island of Iceland.

Minna Sundberg, an artist and writer from Finland, built the world of SSSS on her own and it currently sits at over 1,000 hand-drawn pages and 23 total chapters.

Ninety years passed and with new generations came new understandings of the world around them.

The world outside of Iceland and a few Scandinavian colonies, the Silent World, is synonymous with danger and ruin.

No official expeditions have been made, and all knowledge of the old world, technology, geography, culture, and even languages have become ancient lore, studied only by a few experts.

A married couple, Toberjorn and Siv Vasterstrom, hatch a get-rich-quick scheme to collect books from the Silent World and sell them for a massive profit as one-of-a-kind tomes of ancient knowledge.

SSSS addresses issues of religion, racism, eugenics, and more than its fair share of philosophical dilemmas throughout its story.

While the nuance and modern conversation of these issues can sometimes be skewed by the somewhat restrictive nature of the new culture of the future, Sundberg still takes an approach that is unfailing to presenting the world that is the reality of the next century.  

Further, when these issues are addressed, they can sometimes take a very simplistic approach, that doesn’t leave the reader with any clearer idea of what Sundberg believes or how those beliefs might influence her writing. 

The movement between old world technology and understandings of the world falls in outright conflict with the new age of mythology and the reality of danger outside the safety of society.

With beautiful and intricate illustrations on each page, along with posters, maps, and language trees that build the world the characters live in, the comic sucks you into its world.

No details are left hidden for the reader – everything from demographics to character profiles and family trees fleshed out to a detail not seen in many Hollywood blockbusters.

The phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” could be the best summary of this comic, with whole arcs and plot points being expressed through the artistic imaginings ever present. 

The comic does have some problems maintaining tone from page-to-page, jumping from serious, sometimes harrowing, conversation and adventures to sickeningly cute cats chasing mice.   

However, even the winding tone has its basis in the way the story is told and how the characters see this new world.  

From horrifying to bubbly cute, the effort, love, and care poured into this story is undeniable and the primary defining trait that ties together every page.  

Grade: A+

“Stand Still Stay Silent” will leave you screaming.