The Storyteller: Giants (#1 -4) – Various

2 out of 5

Look: I’m going with tough love on this rating, okay?  Because someone’s gotta take a stand, goldfarbit, and I’ll be danged doop-a-diddled if anyone’s going to tell me that I had a chance to stop the madness by docking a little star and I… didn’t.  So I didst.

Because I really, really like the YF-geared fantasy anthology pitch, and I think its been really smart to couch that in the Henson Storyteller framework, and then to break it down into themed mini-series, which, generally, have been successfully focused on those themes; it’s all very geared toward my tastes.  Alas, the contents have floundered.

 In a way, its because the creators take too many risks, as damning as that is.  While part of the books’ visual appeal is how striking the design is and how varied the chosen contributors’ styles are, it doesn’t always seem like we get people who know how to properly take advantage of the comic book format.  Fascinating, if not great, artists, maybe – ironically – not such great storytellers.

And so I have to knock Giants down an extra peg, because it skews moreso in that direction.  There’s only one entry here that I feel is effective (and actually it’s very good on its own merits) whereas the other three drift from middling to poor.  And again, this is in terms of readability; Feifei Ruan’s entry (issue 4) is a great example of something tjats visually incredibly accomplished, but something of a mess storywise.

Here’s the breakdown:

#1 by Conor Nolan.  A couple adopts a boy who grows into a giant; the boy is looked down upon by the other townspeople until he has a chance to prove himself by saving them from a tribe of orcs.  Nolan’s big and bubbly drawing style – like a less frightening Kelly Jones – is appealing, and his many anthropomorphic characters throughout are very expressive.  But this was the first big nail in the coffin: Something about Nolan’s panel timing and navigation through the story is completely unengaging.  For example, the framing bit starts with the old man and dog looking at some peaches, and then the man suggests dog relax while “I tell you of the giant born from a peach’s pit.”  Now, logically, we see a peach, and then get a story about a peach, but that connection is never actually suggested by the dialogue.  Nothing in the man’s phrasing makes it necessary for them to have had peaches in the scene prior.   That slight disconnect continues throughout, making it really hard to feel engaged from page to page, not to mention the sense of “jumping” it creates in the narrative.  I’m also rather troubled by the “you’re a freak but you risked your life for us so I guess you’re okay now” moral.  To be fair, that’s a traditional fairy tale-esque moral, but it feels short-sighted for our times.

#2 by Brandon Dayton.  This is the clear winner out of the batch.  Dayton winds us into a Cinderella / Beauty and the Beast blended tale wherein a tailor’s daughter (amongst 14 children – the rest sons) is pledged to a giant for marriage.  On her way to the giant’s castle, she discovers several trapped animals, all with tales about how horrible the giant is.  Upon their rescue, they each grant her a gift, which she then uses to get advantage when inevitably having to escape from the giant later on.  To counter what I considered dated morals from the first issue, Dayton humorously goes for overkill happy ending with his entry, and flip-flops some gender roles in the process.  The art has a touch of Fegredo in it, but Dayton’s sense of pacing and framing are a joyous blend of classic Disney movie and Archie comics; it’s a fantastically fun reading experience.

#3 by Jared Cullum pares down to, essentially, a brother and sister squaring off against a giant which wrecked their town and family.  The water colors mixed with the sort of chibi character design looks pretty cool, and the action is very expressive, if a little jerky from panel to panel.  The issue is more that of focus: this is a full animated movie squashed down into an issue, and so character behaviors and the perceived direction of our attentions feels very loosey-goosey.  Spread out into a prestige or GN format, this could be pretty exciting, but it’s unfortunately prevented from settling into a successful read in its existing presentation.

#4, as mentioned, by Feifei Ruan.  The highlight here is really the sort of woodcut style of the art, reminiscent of Lynd Ward.  Within, a fisherman washes up on an island with an evil giant.  And de-evils him.  And… that’s it.  Like issue one, Feifei’s issue has a lot of great details, but lacks the connective tissue to encourage reader investment.  It just seems like a lot of nonsense happens, and then, as it ends, “the rain washed all the magic away,” simple as that.  It’s like a stew of fairy tale ideas that just happen to happen in a single story.  Again: Wonderful visuals, and well handled, this time, in terms of communicating the story; it’s just missing the story.

I encourage this series to continue; I encourage me to stop buying it.  The setup and outlet for indie creators is too promising to dismiss, but I hope the success rate of synced up story and art starts averaging out better in future issues.