“The once upon a time is real. Trust me.”
Are we all familiar with the troupes of Tolkienesque fantasy worlds of trolls and elves and quests? Are we tired of them yet? Of course not, apart from the limitless scope for adventure, they’re such wonderful allegorical and metaphorical vehicles for age-old themes of finding oneself and accepting differences etc. Folklords (Boom! Studios) manages to find another spin on the genre. Eighteen-year-old Ansel is the archetypal young adult in such stories feeling like he doesn't belong which is driving his desire to seek adventure. This time our young protagonist looks so alien in his environment because he looks so familiar to us – he’s wearing a black suit and tie. The reason for this is that he’s been having dreams about our world, one of buildings and cars and gadgets, and he's been copying the things he remembers from it. It’s a delicious side-note of intrigue to the story as Ansel establishes and sets off on a quest to find the supposed mythical Folklords whilst avoiding the fascist regime of The Librarians. Matt Smith’s artwork has a really nice All Ages simplicity to it, but his time working on Hellboy and the BPRD has honed his eye for heightening gothic and creepy moments from the story and its environment including some genuinely dark Brothers Grimm-type scenes which manage to never rely on gore. The characters are all engaging, and the plot remains intriguing although it does lose a little of its charm as the story becomes more cynically self-aware. Also, the final chapters feature such a flurry of ideas that it can feel rather rushed. But there’s more than enough here to maintain interest in this beautifully realised ongoing series. It will be fascinating to see where writer Matt Kindt is heading with it all. Fascist Librarians? Megalomaniacal folk-lords (i.e. writers)? A protagonist dreaming of a land away from fantasy-troupe characters? Maybe the biggest spin on the genre here is the suggestion that we should be shedding some of these age-old forms of myth and story.