Canto returns this month for a sequel series at IDW Publishing. It’s a series inspired by the Wizard of Oz with a touch of Dante’s Inferno, and like with any good fantasy series, there’s a calm before the storm. This issue picks up about where we left off with the previous story, but does enough recapping to make this an easy pick-up for new readers too. This is a call to action sort of story, but there are big stakes in play as the issue lays out.
Written by David M. Booher, this first issue opens with a beautiful introduction to how we got here and the main characters in the story with art by Drew Zucker. It’s a story about a race of creatures in metal suits but with big hearts. Well, not literally — they have clocks where their hearts should be. Zucker is very good at capturing the innocence of these creatures and you’ll connect with them almost instantly. It was actually hard for me to not see them as children even though they are various ages, because they’re so cute. There are also subtle details in their clothes and armor that distinguish them from each other that adds a bit of wear, tear, and history in their design.
Much of this book is focused on the daily exploits fo the characters now that they’ve reclaimed their place and are no longer slaves. You get the sense Booher wants us, along with the characters, to relish their freedom and soon their taking folly in a race. Sadly though, something haunts Canto which never lets him completely relax. It’s not until a terrible affliction is discovered that things get serious, but due to Canto’s nature, you get the sense he’s ready. This is a classic hero’s journey sort of tale as Canto and others must depart and make their way on a new journey to save their people. Once could even argue there’s a magical elixir to bring back (you know what I mean, Joseph Campbell fans) to save the day.
I think many, young and old, will be able to see themselves in Canto. It’s not often you see a hero filled with so much doubt, and Zucker’s ability to make the character strong in moments, but also raw and vulnerable in others, makes it easy to relate to the character. The world around him is also quite cool looking and you get the sense it’s filled with wonders.
Being part of a 5-issue series, it’s quite clear this is only the early part of the story — monsters and fights are in store for Canto, I’m sure — but I was hoping things would shove off sooner. Much of this issue devotes itself to a meaningless race. The race shows the camaraderie of the group of course, but it seems to go on for too long and I was expecting more to it. The group racing each other are all very friendly with little conflict between them, further making not very interesting. I was expecting a little bit more from the book, though I am interested in seeing more with the journey underway by issue’s end.
Canto II: The Hollow Men #1 has all the bones of a soon-to-be classic fantasy tale built on an already established and interesting world. It’s likely to be a treat for young ones, but adults like me can see the joy in its adventure as well. Not unlike The Fellowship of the Ring, bonds are shown here that’ll matter largely going forward and a journey is in the works that’ll likely ring very true.