3 out of 5
The Jim Henson books from Archaia – Fraggle Rock, Dark Crystal, or the anthology Storyteller series – guarantee, perhaps owing to the creative opportunities offered by the source material, colorful, inventive stories. They might not be quite up your alley, but they look good, and have thus far been written with a note of zeal that makes them fun even when they’re not exactly your thing. With Storyteller: Witches from last year, the potential for something less ephemeral was present: the framework of the old man telling stories to his dog was used, and the fantastical elements of those Fraggley worlds was certainly present, but the expanded 1-issue-per story scope, plus the impressive selection of indie storytellers and artists, produced some truly notable tales.
Dragons, for the most part, follows in the vein, with our topic-of-focus switched to the creature specified in the subtitle. Something about a witch, though, seems to allow for a deeper story: it’s a character, after all, something / someone that can be imbued with personality, versus a dragon, which is often just a foe. As such, while we again get some wonderful art, the stories fall back into that more fun and harmless territory, not really pushing into deeper narrative or emotional waters. Parables related to integrity and honesty and family abound. The better bits (Daniel Bayliss and Fabien Rangel Jr.’s Son of the Serpent; Nathan Pride’s The Worm of Lambton) find ways of winding personality into their dragons; Pride’s contribution would almost be perfect if not for a hilariously abbreviated ending. But Hannah Christenson’s story flounders without a clear focus, with an odd habit of repeating key phrases in the dialogue (like a children’s story, I suppose, but the pacing felt off) and Jorge Corona – like in his Feathers mini-series – seems to have his scope set beyond the confines of the covers, his art style also approaching overwhelming in a frantic Damion Scott-esque bombast, though as the book proceeds and some of his symmetrical layouts take over, you can luxuriate in the work, and Jenn Hickman’s fine colors.
Which is about the same mix of good and meh Witches offered, just the main difference is that Dragons doesn’t really seem to offer much of consequence, slinking off into the same harmless – but entertaining – realm as most of the Jim Henson comic stuff.