Advance Review: Never Underestimate The Power Of Hope In ‘Canto & The Clockwork Fairies’

by James Ferguson

Canto, the little clockwork knight with a big heart, has freed his people from imprisonment and now leads them across the countryside seeking a new home. It seems that even when he’s trying to have a little fun with his pet Malorex, adventure still finds the noble hero. When Canto hears a voice crying for help, he leaps into action, facing off against an evil witch.

I was a big fan of the all-ages comic Canto, so I was delighted to see it return with this one-shot. Writer David M. Booher blends action, adventure, comedy, and drama into this book, creating a perfect blend of all of them. The story never veers to heavily in one direction so you end up with the best of each genre. For example, the comedic bits are light and fun without turning into slapstick and the dramatic pieces are serious enough to give them weight while not sucking all the energy out of the room.

A nice example of this is how playful Canto is with the Malorex. The two are best buds and enjoy running around and playing hide and seek. Even with everything the pair has faced, they can still find time to enjoy themselves and relax a little. Yes, Canto is leading a whole bunch of people to an uncertain future, like Moses did centuries ago, but he’s able to kick back and just enjoy life here and there.

Artist Drew Zucker showcases this wonderfully. The Malorex is an interesting design as he’s like a dog crossed with your fun uncle. He’s huge and lumbering, yet his touch is careful and gentle. Although he looks capable of tearing Canto apart, he would never do so. His grin, filled with misshapen teeth is one you can’t help but love. That’s matched with his scruffy hair and scarred eye that makes it look like he’s always winking at you.

Just as the story blends different genres, so does the art. Zucker seamlessly shifts the tone, moving from the playful to the serious when the clockwork fairies are found imprisoned in the witch’s lair. At first this looks like an insurmountable task. How can Canto possibly free them and stop the witch? He doesn’t think twice about it and jumps right at the task. There’s no question about whether or not he will do it, it’s just a question of how.

Colorist Vittorio Astone creates an ominous mood for the witch’s lair, lit by unseen fires creating looming shadows mixed with a warm light. She’s effectively living in a whole in the ground so there’s a dingy quality to this place, adding to the squalid nature of the fairies’ prisons. Throughout it all, Canto and the Malorex give off a vibe of hope. They’re this bright energy that pops into this jail of darkness to help.

Rounding out the creative team is letterer Deron Bennett, who gives a light and sweet voice to the fairies, differentiating them with pink word balloons and a unique font. I like how their words are smaller than those of the other characters, matching their stature.

More all-ages adventure is always a welcome sight and Canto & The Clockwork Fairies delivers that in spades. It’s a reminder, especially with everything that’s gone on this year, that hope can be found in the darkest places. It’s also a lesson in teamwork and friendship and that’s something we can all agree on.

Canto & The Clockwork Fairies from IDW Publishing was originally scheduled for release on May 20th, 2020, but will likely be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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