In the first issue of a brand new all ages series, a small tin boy must leave the world he’s always known to save the one he loves. Is it good?
Set in a fantastical realm called Arcana, a race of small beings who are made of tin but with real hearts are the slaves of another. They toil all day mining rocks, trapped at night due to frightening beasts in the woods, and are forbidden from showing emotions to each other, or even having names. But worst of all, their hearts are replaced with clocks, forcing them to die when their clocks run out. In spite of this, one being has named another, calling him Canto. The little girl loves hearing Canto tell their one story, of a prince rescuing a princess from a tall tower. When the enslavers learn that Canto has been given a name, they hurt the girl, and the only way to save her is for Canto to journey into the wild to find where their real hearts are kept.
Is It Good?
I love fairy tales and fables, and I believe that the stories we experience when we are young shape who we are throughout our lives. I am also a sucker for the idea of stories and how we use them to understand the world. All that to say that I love the structure of this first issue, introducing us to this world with a very typical fairy tale, giving us a hint as to what’s coming. David Booher acknowledges right up front what inspirations he is drawing from, putting a quote from the Tin Man of The Wizard of Oz on the title page. How much more classic of a fairy tale can you get than Oz?
While the story seems simple at the start, Booher lays the groundwork for a fascinating world. Who are these beings? How did Canto’s people become enslaved? Who is the mysterious person replacing the hearts? He also does a good job of keeping the book carefully straddling the line of intense without it crossing into too scary for an all-ages book. His writing style fits this, simple and easy to read, but with enough stylized language to make you feel like you are in another world or time, assisted by Deron Bennett’s illuminated manuscript-style lettering.
Drew Zucker also is key to the all-ages feel — as you can see, showing a heart transplant without it being gory is pretty important. His character design could be tricky, with almost the entire face and body covered by the tin armor, but he is able to convey so much feeling and expression just through the eyes of Canto’s people.
The shapes of those people are inherently cute, softened with rounded edges and a squat, toy-like shape, playing well against the tall, bull-type creatures who enslave them. However, what made the book difficult to parse at times was the coloring. Vittorio Astone chose a muddy and pallid brown palette, with only hints of saturated color here and there. While this was probably intended to enforce the tragic surroundings Canto’s people are in, it just made it difficult to tell what you are looking at from panel to panel. There were times I felt myself squinting to distinguish what was happening in the more action-oriented panels. I also was confused if the Marolexs were the same as the enslavers, because from the color palette it was hard to tell. What is even more perplexing is that Astone colored the main cover and the two very vibrant variant covers for the book, and if that palette was throughout the whole book, it would be even more compelling. It feels like a bit of a bait and switch not getting that same feeling as the cover.
I’m definitely hooked enough to see where this story is going to go. Another named inspiration is Dante’s Inferno, so I’m going to assume that Canto is going to travel through some intense experiences on his hero’s journey to save his love.
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