Welcome to the world of Arcana where tin knights work their until they drop for their monstrous masters. They don’t have names or identities. They just work and work and work. One among them has had enough. He rises up to do what’s right and help a young tin girl who’s clockwork heart is broken. He must travel across a harsh landscape and avoid detection if he hopes to save her life. He is Canto.
The first thing I noticed about Canto was how sad the tin people look. They have been beaten into submission for years and years. This is all they know and it’s ground any resistance and hope out of them. Artist Drew Zucker brings this feeling out in their eyes. They have a puppy dog look to them that makes you instantly fall in love with each and every one of them.
The knights appear very childlike which adds to their sympathetic nature. This is an all ages title so this design can speak to kids as they learn what’s right and wrong, as well as adults who might cringe at the idea of a child being put in such a harmful position.
Although they all look pretty similar, Canto stands out from the crowd. He stands a bit straighter, refusing to cower in the face of the intimidating masters. This makes him a hero from the jump. There’s some sadness in him just like everyone else, but there’s a fire burning deep in his belly. He’s itching for a fight and he’s been given just the opportunity.
We don’t know the full history of Arcana or how Canto’s people became slaves, however that isn’t entirely necessary, especially at this point in the series. Writer David M. Booher seamlessly introduces us to this world and its hierarchy in such a way that we immediately understand what’s going on. We don’t need to ask why the tin knights don’t fight back because there’s obviously a reason for it. This might be revealed in subsequent issues, but it would serve as more of a historic exposition than a way to move the overall narrative forward. Canto is the heart of this story and that’s what we’re focused on.
Since we mostly see Arcana from the perspective of the tin knights, it feels large and menacing at times. Colorist Vittorio Astone uses a lot of earthy tones to create a lived-in, gritty mood. The knights are covered in dirt and grime from years of working in the mines. There’s a haze in the sky, as if it’s constantly overcast here. These folks may have never seen the sun and it shows.
Canto #1 has a handful of pages that appear like a spread of stars in the sky. This is broken up by a conversation that’s tangentially related to the story. These break up the pace of the story a little, however they serve a higher purpose in that they build on the legend. We’re seeing the beginning of Canto’s journey and these bits of dialogue, shown in alternate colors from letterer Deron Bennett, feel like they’re coming after the little guy has established himself as a hero. I hope the two paths converge by the end of this story.
Canto has the makings of the next great fantasy epic. It’s a new look at a legend of a knight up against insurmountable forces. Canto is doing what’s right regardless of the dangers involved. In a world where he’s constantly told he’s worthless, he’s found an inner strength to raise his head high and persevere.