Echolands Book 1: Hope's Crucible
J. H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, co-creators & co-writers; J. H. Williams III, art & design; Dave Stewart, colors; Todd Klein, letters
Image Comics, 2022

Echolands is an ambitious fantasy story. The characters and setting incorporate just about every imaginable genre fiction element: folklore, wizards, vampires, elves, oracles, demigods, mobsters, and even a retro rocket ship. The protagonist is Hope Redhood, a thief who has fallen into the Red: she has destructive powers that she does not understand, and can barely control. She has stolen something important from the Wizard (Teros Demond, who claims to be the savior of the city and the entire world). His pursuit of her and her allies drives the action of the whole arc.

He is so intent on recovering the stolen object that he sends a force under the command of his daughter, a formidable magical being in her own right. The first installment ends with text material (like the interludes in Watchmen) with a statement from the oracle (The Metaphiscist), an interview with the Wizard (from the magazine The Echo), and a page with ads and a comic strip.  This pattern recurs through the entire run, sometimes interacting with the main action.

From here the action is nearly a nonstop chase, although Hope and company manage to find a few brief periods of repose. In the end they decide to go to Horror Hill (home of the vampires) in order to get aid for a teammate, and because they think it is the safest place. The whole comic is done in landscape format, which gives J. H. Williams III the space to do the kind of visual magic he is known for from comics like Promethea and The Sandman: Overture. It's a bravura performance, including characters drawn in their own visual styles and pages with parallel stories told in split screens. I have to say that the landscape format was a pain on a tablet--every page had to be expanded to fill the screen--but I am still looking forward to reading the next installment.


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