Creators J.H. Williams III (Sandman: Overture, Promethea) and W. Haden Blackman bring us fantasy and pure comics magic. Echolands #1, colored by Dave Stewart and lettered by Todd Klein, is a stunning and mystifying opening chapter into a new reality. With effective minimalist writing that mixes and shifts styles and absolutely mind-boggling visuals, this is magical fantasy in comics done to perfection.
“In a bizarre future world that has forgotten its history, a reckless thief, Hope Redhood, holds the key to excavating its dark, strange past—if only she and her crew can escape a tyrannical wizard and his unstoppable daughter. But fate will send them all on a path leading to a war between worlds.”
Writing & Plot
The success of the writing in Echolands #1 is due to the creators trusting the audience to guide themselves through this story. Williams and Blackman introduce us to a world bustling with the unknown and the bewildering. Instead of explaining how the world and its characters work however, they simply grab our hands and drag us along for the ride. This is my favored style of fantastical storytelling. Much like Saga��or East Of West, the rules and stakes are explored through events in the book. Dialogue is minimal, sticking entirely to diegetic speech and sounds. We learn the who’s and what’s of the world via how characters interact. The dialogue itself is snappy and naturalistic, sticking to a plain-spoken vernacular despite the comic’s fantastical cast.
There are passages of vague, poetic narrative sprinkled in the earlier pages as well. These writings increase the intrigue and mystery of this fantasy comic, hinting further at the surrounding mysticism. The latter pages of the book turn from comic panels into in-universe prose and articles. I found this to be a fantastic and fascinating way to find out more info about the world Williams and Blackman have created. However, I’m also aware people coming into this comic may not appreciate the sudden bulk of reading. If you’re ready for it though, it’s truly fascinating material. This is a masterclass in trusting your audience and letting the comics medium work to tell such a massive fantastical tale.
My temptation for judging the art in Echolands #1 is just to say “it’s J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart,” give it 5-stars and just leave it at that. In all seriousness however, I gotta talk about how unbelievable the visuals here are. For those who may not know, Williams previously performed his brand of wizardry on Sandman: Overture and Promethea. Since both of these comics annihilate any and all preconceived notions of how comic art can look, I’m sure you can guess what to expect here. Williams’s visuals are a staggering menagerie of finely detailed fantastic magical beings. He crafts a collage out of mythical concepts, some familiar, others uniquely original, all completely stunning. There’s one figure in particular, this issue’s main villain, whose design is so disturbingly intricate I had to stop and stare for several moments every time it appeared.
Williams’s pencils are filled and complimented by Dave Stewart’s colors. The veteran colorist perfectly invigorates the outlandish visuals with a rich palette full of variety. His work is so vibrant that it almost seems like an illusion itself. The rich reds of Hope’s cloak make it appear almost alive. The juxtaposing and blending hues that touch every being and surface in the panels brings an unmatched vividness to this comic’s incredible visuals. Yet another Sandman alum joins Echolands with letterer Todd Klein. Klein’s style remains unmatched, as he uses a wide swath of wavering fonts for each character. His narration and dialogue letters perfectly capture the feel of the reading experience. This comic book is nothing less than an absolute marvel to read.
Echolands #1 is a blast of immersive fantastical originality. The story J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman have come up with is rife with mystery and suspense, and delivered with masterful precision. Williams and Dave Stewart’s visuals are inconceivably wild and wonderful, matched only by the pair’s other works. Be sure to grab this incredible first issue when it hits shelves on 8-25!