CANTO AND THE CLOCKWORK FAIRIES, available from IDW Publishing on July 22nd, is a simple tale about a clockwork knight and his pet Malorex attempting to save fairies from a wicked witch. David M. Booher’s charming fable, meshed with Drew Zucker’s fanciful art, makes for an entertaining bottle issue in the ongoing Canto saga.
Zucker tells you everything you need to know with a knockout cover. The extreme juxtaposition in size between Canto (who’s already vertically challenged among the folks he meets) and the diminutive fairy renders an appreciation for how small and frail the fairies really are. The lilt of the fairy’s wings and Canto’s look of wonder give you the impression he’s holding a delicate flower that could wither with a strong breeze. Zucker gives you both ends of the spectrum brought together in harmony with a solid, metal protector contrast with a tiny, frail life in need of protecting.
Booher’s story is as simple as fable’s get: Strong, determined knight, saves the damsel(s) from the evil witch in a cave. What it lacks in originality, Booher’s story more than makes up for in execution and charm.
Despite his short stature and childlike demeanor, Canto’s a courageous knight in the purest form. The Malorex (a giant, pink/purple dog-like animal) is the analog for Canto’s trusty steed. And the fairies, with their charm bracelet bell voices, are every helpless princess trope rolled into one. It may sound like criticism of cliche, but it really isn’t. What makes the obvious tropes so entertaining is the sheer wholesomeness of the story execution. Canto’s plucky determination, the Malorex’s Chewbacca-esque loyalty, and the witches’ malevolent penchant for mutilation all combine flawlessly.
Zucker’s designs for the characters are both familiar and fresh at the same time. This is a form of “Clockwork Punk,” so the setting is high-fantasy medieval, but nearly every character is infused metal and gears to simulate wind-up technology in the biotech. It’s a subset of the techno-organic genres that don’t get enough attention and done well, and it works especially well here because placing it in a high-fantasy, medieval setting allows Zucker to get away with a lot of the design choices by implying magic, which is a very smart way.
Another area that I don’t touch on much in reviews is panel layout. Zucker’s panel choices here are very well done for cramming, on some pages, up to eight panels on a single page without looking cluttered. The panels in this issue are expertly executed, not only for being placed just right to guide the reader’s eye but also for knowing when to go as far to the other extreme of using a single panel for punch—nice job by Zucker in this issue.
Vittori Astone’s colors are a great match for the subject matter. Most of the story takes place in the gloom of a nighttime forest or the torch-lit shadows of a cave, but the colors that need to stand out pop. Every detail is visible, from the flowing red of Canto’s scarf to the tiny rust speckles on his helmet. The sparkling blue glow of the witch’s wand crackles with electricity, and the orange glow stands of the furnace fire from Canto’s helmet stands out as a faux smile when the panel calls for it. All the elements of power and emotion are accomplished through Astone’s color work.
Deron Bennett’s lettering stands out for the unique take on fairy speak. Through the use of colored fill on the fairies’ word balloons, you get a sense of musicality when they’re speaking. There is a little room for improvement here in that the font choice made the words a little hard to read on some of the panels. For future issues, this could be helped with using more bold in the fairies’ lettering or by using a font that’s more clear to read when using a reverse bold.
CANTO AND THE CLOCKWORK FAIRIES, available from IDW Publishing on July 22nd, is the simplest of fables but is thoroughly enjoyable for stellar art and overwhelming charm. This is a highly entertaining bottle issue that’s completely worth the price.