Creators J.H. Williams III (Promethea, Sandman: Overture) and W. Haden Blackman return to their awe-inspiring world in Echolands #2. With Dave Stewart on colors and Todd Klein on letters, this issue continues this genre-blending epic’s forward bold march. With an intriguing plot that leaves much to mystery and medium-breaking visuals, this chapter proves the first issue was no fluke – this is a potential masterpiece in the making.
“Hope Redhood and her companions, Cor, Caniff, Castrum, Dena, Rabbit, and Rosa, are on the run from the Wizard, Teros Demond, and his terrifying daughter. Why is the Wizard willing to kill to regain his stolen gem? Can Hope and her crew escape the strange robots lurking in the tunnels beneath San Francisco? And will they survive a betrayal by the pirate captain, Bloody Gums?”
Writing & Plot
What W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III have done with this series is craft a seamless blend of science-fiction and fantasy genres. Echolands #2 further showcases this with how its characters and lore details string together. A crew including not just our magic-wielding protagonist and her burly companion but also a vampire and a non-binary elf (and numerous other beings) are at the front of the story. Our main antagonists include a masked woman made of flesh and foliage and her arch-wizard father. Meanwhile, robots lurk under city streets and the villains use surveillance drones to track people down. All of this is tucked into a story that feels natural because of how Blackman and Williams present the world.
There is no real exposition, instead the writers just decide to throw us in without a life preserver. This is in my mind the best way to experience this kind of story. The newness of everything makes us readers passengers and discoverers in a new world. We are strangers in a strange land, newcomers to a world we will gain an understanding of only if we stick to this cast of characters. The final pages of this book are made up of a prose interview with the comic’s shadowy antagonist. This may be my favorite part of the comic even though it stops being a comic book here. The amount of atmosphere, lore, and foreboding this segment gives makes me voracious for the next chapter.
J.H. Williams III also draws Echolands #2. This should tell you everything you need to know about the art. His style-blending on every page never ceases to be astounding. Every character appears to be drawn with a different approach and technique. One character could be heavily shaded and cross-hatched while the character standing next to them is drawn with open linework, akin almost to Frank Quietly’s approach. This style, which is common in Williams’s work, adds to the idea of this comic’s mythological melting pot. His intricate detailing of every surface of character and environment is impossible to to see. It’s the sort of work that will have you staring at the page for moments on end before moving on.
All of his creative designs in terms of both the world and characters are memorable and distinct – especially our masked villain. The panel direction is just as artistically charged as you could imagine a Williams would be. One page will have a relatively standard top-to-bottom panel progression. Then the following page will have no panels whatsoever and be broken up by the art itself. Williams has always favored the progression of his comic stories in this manner, and it’s always an absolute thrill to see.
Colors & Lettering
Dave Stewart is on hand to fill in Williams’ work with. It should go without saying that he does incredible work here as well. The veteran colorist utilizes a style that is just as shifting and varied as Williams’ own, with every character and surface seeming to have a different approach taken to it. The density to Stewart’s work pulls off an artistically rich and high-fidelity look to the visuals. Much like the penciller, the color palette can shift into oddity and almost psychedelia on a dime and look completely natural in this aesthetic. Coming from the same colorist that filled in Williams’ work on Sandman: Overture, I expect nothing less.
The lettering comes from another comics heavyweight in Todd Klein, and it’s just as brilliant as you might imagine. His fonts range wildly from character to character, with an extensive variety of dynamic changes. A real highlight is the masked protagonist’s dialogue lettering, which appears in a sort of Greek alphabet-esque font. Every aspect of the visuals in this comic are absolutely stunning and a high point in the entire medium.
Echolands #2 is a fast-paced and wholly imaginative second chapter to this genre-blending storm of creativity. W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams craft a script that fleshes out the world solely through character interaction and makes all of this story’s many gears mesh together perfectly. Williams’ pencils together with Dave Stewart’s colors are reminiscent of a Baroness album cover in motion, but with infinitely more variety. Be sure to grab this newest issue and keep up with this series when it hits shelves on 9/29!