Hope had the kind of childhood any of us could ask for, the core of it being loving parents. What would call her away from her family to become a street-level thief? Simply put, she has been consumed by “The Red.” Using her little-understood magic ability, Hope makes off with a gem that belongs to the powerful wizard who seems to rule her world. Where Hope sees opportunity, the great wizard Teros Demond sees retribution against the one who stole his most-prized possession. Welcome to the crazy, mishmash world that is Echolands.

I was not prepared for this book.

When I saw the cover, my guess was that this story would be something along the lines of a badass Red Ridinghood in a gritty, adventure story. And, maybe there was some of that, but it’s such a small fraction of what this book is. I dare you to open this book and fit it into a genre. It’s almost impossible. The slew of characters and settings we get blends every imaginable subgenre under the sun. Just when I thought I had seen it all, my eyes are greeted by something out of a western being stabbed by gothic space soldiers (not exaggerating).

All of this is getting to a larger point: This is the type of book that makes comics comics. Try as hard as you like, but capturing the spirit of this book into another platform like TV or a movie would be a monumental task. This book crashes into every childhood imagination trip you had. It’s an incredibly risky book. Everything I’m describing sounds like it shouldn’t work, and yet, creators J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman masterfully simplify the core cast and plot to make this melting pot of a book worth it.

Williams’s art is not only a gamble for the aforementioned reasons. And it’s not just the landscape layout of the book similar to Barrier (another risky enterprise from the same publisher). There’s a busyness to the art that begs you to linger and take in all the information you didn’t know your brain could handle. And, despite the panel layouts to give the story sequence, the flow of the characters and the movement around them makes each page feel almost like a panoramic snapshot (it’s no wonder the playlist that accompanied the birth of this artwork is gigantic). It brought me back to the fantasy picturebooks of my childhood that captured my imagination and attention for hours. The coloring of Dave Stewart and the lettering of Todd Klein masterfully keep up with the frenetic pace.

I’ll say it again: I was not prepared for Echolands, and I hope you aren’t either. This book refuses to be defined in an easy-to-label way, yet, despite the risks, it has an engaging story at its heart that could flit about in any direction that our heroine takes. This ambitious book has all the makings of being an industry-defining moment in time, and we’re lucky to finally be here for this decades-long project.

Echolands #1

10

F*ck it...all the genres

10.0/10

Mature Fantasy Tropes

10.0/10

Landscape Panorama

10.0/10

Story and Art that Evoke Childhood Imagination

10.0/10

Risk-taking, Industry-defining work of art

10.0/10

Credits

  • Co-creators, Co-writers: J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
  • Artist and Designer: J. H. Williams III
  • Colorist: Dave Stewart
  • Letterer: Todd Klein
  • Publisher: Image Comics
Michael Farris Jr.
mokepf7@gmail.com
Michael is a Virginia-born Idaho convert (stuck in Georgia) and a huge fan of sci-fi. He took time off from comics and sci-fi during the dark years of being a teenager and trying to impress girls, but has since married an amazing woman with whom he regularly can geek out and be himself. He's also a drummer, loves metal music, and can always be found in a melancholy state while watching all things DC sports.

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