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Portal review

Published on


Issue number: 2024:1




by Edith Hammar
reviewed by B.J. Woodstein

Portal (Portal), a new graphic novel by Edith Hammar, centres queer characters and makes the invisible visible.

Elia – whose gender is not defined – is a young person in contemporary Finland, who is beginning to get depressed and to avoid spending time with other LGBTQ+ friends, who in turn begin to be concerned about Elia. One night, while out ice-skating, Elia meets someone in a mysterious, old-fashioned car. The person disappears, but then returns another day, and their connection deepens.

Elia and Eki develop a friendship which gradually turns into something more. Eki, it turns out, is living in a lavender marriage…in 1950s Finland. Apparently, Elia has found a portal between today and the past and begins to spend time going back and forth between the two.

This might sound like a work of science fiction, but that is not an accurate description. Hammar uses this portal to tell queer stories from different periods of history, to find parallels between them and also to highlight surprising facts. World War 2, Hammar suggests, was a time when people could be more openly ‘sexually deviant’, because the war meant there were bigger issues to be concerned about, while the relatively safe decade after was a more challenging and constricting period for queers. Meanwhile, even in modern Finland, it doesn’t always feel safe or easy for people to be open about who they are.

Hammar has said that both main characters, Elia and Eki, are based on Hammar themselves, which suggests that the book also is exploring various aspects of identity, in particular longing. Elia eventually realises that they need to stay in their own time period, but that they can be inspired by Eki to build a queer community.

The illustrations are starkly black-and-white, with a close focus on people’s faces and their emotions. Hammar has previously published another graphic novel, Homo Line, and their work is also on display at the Modern Museum of Art in Stockholm.

Portal is a touching story about the importance of community and the need for visibility and acceptance.

Edith Hammar in black cap, sitting on leather sofa.
Edith Hammar. Photo: Märta Thisner.


Förlaget M, Helsinki, 2023, 215 pages

Rights: Rights & Brands, Helsinki

Winner of the inaugural Prisma Literary Award, set up in 2023 to highlight queer literature, in the Comic of the Year category.

Nominated for Sarjakuva-Finlandia, the Finlandia prize for comic books, which will be awarded later in March.

Portal is Edith Hammar’s second graphic novel. Their debut, Homo Line, was reviewed in SBR 2021:2 and shortlisted for Sarjakuva-Finlandia.