Life Outside the Circle by H-P Lehkonen shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of being in a romantic relationship. Inspired by an inside joke about the roads in the Finland countryside, this endearing webcomic is about trust, taking risks, and moving out of your comfort zone.
Sami has just moved from his home in Helsinki (capital of Finland) to the small Finnish village of Ikkeläjärvi. He stays in his late grandmother’s house, hoping to gain inspiration for his artwork in the countryside. However, living outside of an urban area isn’t as ideal as he thinks. The only bus runs for limited hours, the stores don’t have avocados, and the local café doesn’t have chai lattes. Sami gets support from Juha, a single dad living with his daughter Maiju. Sami and Juha eventually fall for each other, but then life puts their relationship to the test. The two learn to set boundaries and make things work in the end.
The inside joke that inspired the title and story revolves around the circle roads in rural Finland. The three major roads, on a map, look like half circles. The third circle, however, doesn’t have an “outside.” People in Finland say that there’s no life outside circle 3. Sami moves into his grandmother’s house, located outside of circle 3. Of course, it’s up to interpretation. Living outside the circle could mean stepping out of your comfort zone or taking risks.
When Sami is offered a temporary job in Helsinki, Juha hesitates at first. Juha then decides to move in with Sami, assuming that the city would be better for him and Maiju. But the queerphobia he’d experienced in his hometown doesn’t stop after moving into Helsinki. It becomes harder to find a job, and it doesn’t help that Sami’s been working long hours. Alone and bitter, Juha’s relationship with Sami becomes strained. There, the dynamics between them verges on toxic territory. The two need to sort things out and decide what’s best for them. Lehkonen excels in portraying the clean and dirty windows of a romantic relationship. He doesn’t shy away from reality, nor does he tiptoe around it.
The representation in this webcomic amazes me. The author (a bisexual trans man born and raised in Ikkeläjärvi) has created complicated and dynamic characters that linger in your mind long after the last episode. Sami, Turkish, is a bisexual trans man. The diverse population in Helsinki isn’t glossed over. Lehkonen writes and draws with sensitivity and grace.
A webcomic that shows the reality of being in a committed relationship, Life Outside the Circle shares the story about two men navigating a life and relationship outside of their adjusted lives.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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