Life Is No Fairy Tale: Reviewing ‘Folklords SC’
by Brendan M. Allen
Award-nominated writer Matt Kindt (Grass Kings, Black Badge) teams with acclaimed artist Matt Smith (Hellboy & The BPRD) for an adventure that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. In a world of magic and monsters, Ansel is an outsider haunted by visions of well-pressed suits and modern technology. When it comes time for him to declare his Quest, Ansel decides to seek out the mysterious Folklords, hoping they can explain his visions… but looking for the Folklords is strictly forbidden, punishable by death. How much is Ansel willing to risk to find out about the world he has never truly belonged in?
Ansel lives in a magical world but is obsessed with the possibility that something else exists. A mundane world, where electronics and logic rule. Obviously, the kid is an outcast. Imagine seeing a kid walking down your street, in a bright purple wizard robe, pointed hat and fake white beard. The whole nine. That’s how strange this kid looks to his peers, with his sport coat and tie, with his hair all combed, with his… shoes and stuff.
In Folklords, Ansel sets out on a forbidden quest, accompanied by the other village oddball, Archer the elf. This cat is, wait for it… an elven archer. Tons of fantasy tropes straight out of the chute. Those get all mashed up, spun around, and turned inside out.
Matt Kindt’s script is all kinds of quirky and charming. Leaning into the fact we all know these fantasy devices inside and out leaves plenty of space for Kindt to develop this kid, whose sole alienating trait is his spectacular banality. The characters are weird and memorable, and the quest is thrilling and dangerous.
Kindt plays around quite a bit with perspective and challenging belief systems. There’s a whole lot to unpack. Ansel is a strange dude and it seems like he’s just learning about himself as we are, through a conveniently placed set of odd trials. He failed that first big one pretty hard, and then his growth in the second scenario actually kind of drives the first failure home even harder.
Did I mention The Librarians? Those dudes are terrifying. They’re a pack of Mumm-Ra looking goons with tridents, whose apparent responsibility is violently gatekeeping information, specifically the existence of those Folklords.
Matt Smith and Chris O’Halloran have an interesting task in this one. They get to draw all manner of crazy mythical humanoids and creatures, then have to make them all look ordinary and run of the mill, so that that one normalish kid would stand out as the weird one. It works.
Smith’s linework is deceptively simple, but amazingly effective at conveying complex emotion. It’s well suited to the twists and loops within Kindt’s script.
Folklords SC is an incredibly fun book. Cheeky and irreverent, with an ominous undertone. Those Librarians, man. All kinds of nasty. Leaning into a whole lot of tropes, while flipping the perspective makes the whole thing fresh and interesting.
Folklords SC, BOOM! Studios, 15 July 2020. Matt Kindt, Matt Smith, and Chris O’Halloran. Logo design by Marie Krupina, series designed by Michelle Ankley, collection designed by Scott Newman, edited by Eric Harburn with assistant editors Ramiro Portnoy and Gavin Gronenthal.