I don’t often read graphic novels or comic books. I don’t dislike them, quite the contrary, I find them articulate and full of life. I just, forget about them, I guess?
But, I thought I’d give them another shot, and I decided to start off my journey with Folklords by Matt Kindt, Matt Smith, and Chris O’Halloran. And I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.
Folklords is a five-issue (for now) comic book series that follows Ansel and his friends as they embark on a quest through enchanted forests and library fortresses, searching for the truth about the mysterious Folklords, the forbidden legends of their land.
Without any further ado, let’s kick off what might become a new series here, Spec Fic Comic Book Reviews!
The first issue of Folklords was published in 2019 by Boom Studios, and received such a great response that Boom sold out of the first issue more than once.
The other four issues were released early 2020 and eventually compiled into an omnibus in July 2020.
Author Matt Kindt is no newbie to the comic book world, having written for Darkhorse, DC, and Marvel. He’s worked on many independent projects, as well as contributing to the Spiderman and Suicide Squad universes.
Artist Matt Smith brings Folklords to life with his distinct line art style, which he perfected in the Lake of Fire comics and the Barbarian Lord.
And finally, Chris O’Halloran throws in his splashes of color, bringing the vibrancy to a new level. In the past, he worked as a colorist for Black Panther and Hulk comics.
All in all, a legendary team came together to bring us Folklords, and it shows.
Pinpointing a Style
Whenever I start reading a new comic book or graphic novel, I like to take a moment to think about it’s style.
Because one of the great things about graphic novels, is you’re presented with the plot and characters, but you’re also visually presented with the setting. When you’re reading a regular novel, sure, the setting can be described to you, but in this format the author and artist have worked together to portray a vision, which you’re lucky enough to see.
Anyways. Folklords can best be described as the reverse Chronicles of Narnia with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Arthurian legend sprinkled in.
In C.S. Lewis’ seminal series, the characters from our world venture into the mystical fairy land of Narnia. But in Folklords, the main character, Ansel, is trying to understand his visions of our world. He even goes so far as to sew his own suit and tie and design gadgets like lighters and air horns.
The combination of the pure fantasy setting with tidbits of modernity thrown in really gives the story life, and it reminds me of my childhood. My brother and I would pretend to venture into Narnia or Middle Earth, dressing up in costumes and sword fighting in the back yard, as cars and power lines framed the background. That’s the nostalgia Folklords sparked in me, and I’m sure it brings up similar memories for other readers too.
How Does the Story Stand Up?
So far, this review has focused on the art and the setting, which are both fantastic. But, what about the story? The plot? The characters?
Well, all those things are equally as impressive, but I’m not completely in love with them. Here’s why:
I read Folklords in an hour, all five issues in omnibus format. There’s a certain continuity that comes from reading comic books in this way, and I can’t tell if it’s better or worse than reading each individual issue.
For me, Folklords wasn’t balanced. The first issue, as with any introduction, provided some backstory and inkling of conflict. That’s fine, it’s to be expected. But after that, I felt that the story progressed too quickly.
Especially the fifth issue. The conflict seemed to come to a head far too quickly, and within a few minutes of reading, I’d reached the end.
I know there are constraints to the medium, required lengths and whatnot, but the vibrant world and characters passed by too quickly. There was certainly room to build out the conflict a bit more throughout issues three and four, but I understand the need for forward progression.
At the end of the fifth issue, Kindt teases an addition to the series from another character’s perspective, which would really help to explain a lot of what happened in the fifth issue of Folklords.
But, as of writing this, there is no word on whether a Folklords issue six is in the works. I certainly hope there will be, because this world is worth revisiting.
To bring this comic book review to a close, I rate Folklords #1-5 an 8.5/10. The immersive nature of Kindt’s writing and Smith’s artwork got me excited to explore more of their work, and the premise of Folklords was a fresh take on so many tropes present in the fantasy genre.