The immediate thing the reader takes away from the first issue of Matt Kindt, Matt Smith and company’s Folklords is what a sublimely perfect issue it is in terms of establishing premise, characters and fictional reality. In just twenty-odd pages an entire society is brought to life, engaging mysteries are set up, and a sympathetic cast is introduced. Indeed, by the end of this opening chapter, the direction of the series has us so hooked that it’s very apparent there’s something quite special in the making here.
Writer Matt Kindt and artist Matt Smith turn fantasy standards on their head with the story of Ansel, whose life in his magical world is plagued with visions of a more familiar plane of existence (to us) of “tailored suits and modern technology”. As part of the rite of passage ritual of his homeland Ansel must undertake a quest of his own choice. Determined to understand his strange visions, he decides to seek out the mysterious and possibly mythical Folklords for answers. But that’s a course of action that is punishable by death by the sinister Guild of Librarians who control the currency of knowledge in this realm…
Combining the recognisable standards of coming-of-age stories with a neat twist on the fantasy genre Folklords blends the extraordinary with a more pedestrian existence, merging but still contrasting the two through its sequential juxtaposition of the dual realities. What’s particularly effective here is how in the world of Folklords we are reminded that the fantastic is always a relative concept, with “our” world being the mythical and outlandish one full of unbelievable wonder and awe to Ansel. In that regard he is an immediate entry point character for the reader with a sense of curiosity and adventure that parallels our own.
Matt Smith’s character design is a huge part of the appeal here with his expressive cast of players and world-building visuals being a significant factor in the book’s draw. Panel-to-panel pacing is beautifully crafted to elicit diverse emotional reactions from the audience and merely a look or a gesture from a character often says so much more about their thoughts or motivations than dialogue or narration ever could. Chris O’Halloran’s colour choices create a world that is both magical and yet also one with an underlying brooding tension whereas Jim Campbell’s lettering is exemplary in adding tonal layers by shifting narrator perspective or accentuating emotional states.
With a mischievous hint of the meta this opening instalment underlines Folklords’ claim on the title of the Next Big Thing in serial comics. It’s advertised as a five-issue miniseries but let’s hope that’s simply a first story arc because this is a world ripe for more extensive exploration.
Matt Kindt (W), Matt Smith (A), Chris O’Halloran (C), Jim Campbell (L) • BOOM! Studios, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver