After completing an arc on Giants last spring, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller goes with a smaller creature from fantasy for its new run, starting this week, in Fairies. Structured after the TV show of the same name, each issue begins with the Storyteller (drawn to look like John Hurt) and his dog about to tell a story. Matt Smith is behind the story and art for issue one, while future issues will involve other creators.
“The Fairy Queen and the Shepherd” is the tale of Grettir the Strong, who finds work as a shepherd for Asgier, the farmer. While he needs someone to fill the job, Asgier is hesitant to hire Grettir. There’s been a string of deaths among the shepherds he’s employed, but Grettir insists, and is brought to meet Asgier’s housekeeper, Hild, while he waits to see how he fares in his new position.
Fairy tales often put stock in having their characters go on a journey where they experience personal growth. It’s one of the reasons Grettir is such an unusual lead. His taciturn personality makes for an interesting read, especially in the way that it trickles down to the ending, but this can be limiting for Smith’s art and Dan Jackson’s colors. Unaccustomed to much shift in expression, his static posture leaves him in the same huff most of the time.
Smith’s art style is consistent, but there’s a noticeable increase in detail when the story enters fairyland, that lets you know you’re in a different place, but also makes you wish the whole issue was set there (that would miss the point, but it’s a level above the rest, visually). Smith designs some beautiful headwear for the royal family and guards, while the way Jackson conceives a magic effect is suitably eerie. Their combined effort on the design for the fairy queen’s mother-in-law make it a shame that she’ll only see life this one issue.
The primary pleasure of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller series (published through Boom! Studios’ Archaia imprint) is its capacity for surprise. Smith’s busybody crows are a wonderful invention that add an element of the “other” to the action. Since this issue already has a narrator in the Storyteller, you don’t expect their unsolicited comments, and the way Smith draws them as observers, with a window onto the story, almost feels like Mystery Science Theater 3000. Jim Campbell brings a lot of joy to lettering talking animals, especially the Storyteller’s dog. You don’t get to letter a talking dog every day, and there’s a subtle difference in the shape of his speech bubbles that sets him apart.
Coming to Fairies #1, as someone who’s read Storyteller trades, one drawback to the single issues is they don’t include an introduction by the writer. This came before every story in the volume and consisted of a page for the author to talk about the fairy tale they had chosen, where it originated, and their spin on it for this project. A way of making each issue feel part of a larger, storytelling tradition, it’s a feature that’s missed here, but if you’re looking for a comic that tells a complete story each issue and can appeal to both kids and adults, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller is family fare that never disappoints.
Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Fairies #1 went on sale December 20th.