Jim Henson’s Storyteller: Dragons (4 of 4)

Independently Well Done highlights completed and/or noteworthy story-arcs published by indie and small press creators.

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Dragons 4 of 4

Written By: Jorge Corona
Art By: Jorge Corona
Published: March 16, 2016 by Archaia

Well, here we are once more after our short break wrapping up 2016 here on the blog. I’ll say, I’ve missed this journey we’ve been taking, as we work our way through the Jim Henson’s Storyteller series, and the culmination is closely approaching. Today however, we discuss the final of the Dragon’s series, and possibly my favorite of the bunch.

In this last issue of the series we delve into Japanese culture and explore dragon lore through their folk tales. We follow a young girl named Tokoyo, who might be the most awesome samurai warrior I’ve ever seen in a comic. This girl has all the fury and vengeance you’d expect in a warrior, alongside a somewhat shadowed past, mixed with good intentions and misunderstandings. Yup, she’s a complicated girl, but that’s what makes a great character.

Beyond the great character building in this issue we face down a very interesting twist as we learn of the world in which these characters dwell. Instead of being a land of whimsy and wonder, we explore a place named Oki Islands, which as the writer describes, is an accursed place. Instead of setting us up to thwart a dragon in a land wherein all is great and wonderful, we’re tod right from the beginning that this land..well…sucks.

Why’s this interesting? Because often times in stories we need a hero to defend a way of life that’s worth defending. A champion to come to the aide of a blissful world disturbed only by the introduction of the evil in the story. Instead, this Oki Island is introduced by telling us how horrible it is to live there. The immediate twist of this idea creates an entirely new experience when reading. We aren’t looking to save a way of life, but instead we’re looking to create a brand new one for an entire population.

Now, when we introduce Tokoyo, suddenly her task is far greater than defeating some evil. Instead, she now faces an evil she must defeat, but also lift up a people who are downtrodden. The inhabitants of Oki Island no longer hold onto hope, the fight within them is gone. This entire island’s population has basically succumbed to the darkness and now lays in wait for death. It’s dark, but introducing a warrior to stand up for a people who’ve given up all hope builds a far greater reward at the end, and that’s exactly what happens.

As though the stakes of Tokoyo’s task weren’t high enough, once we’re introduced to the dragon of this story, things are then cranked to max. Also, allow me to mention that the dragon in this story is a butt-hole, and I love it. The arrogance and assuredness of victory really sells the final battle Tokoyo must face, especially when the dragon reveals its truest power to our young hero.

I won’t spoil it of course, but lets just say, if Tokoyo fails to kill this dragon, and it’s highly questionable that she can, not only will she die, but the dragon is going to destroy everything. I’m not talking about laying waste to some buildings wherein some people will die, no. This dragon possesses the ability to destroy every rock, every twig, every limb of every person within Oki Island, and when Tokoyo is faced with such a power, defeat runs rampant through her mind.

This story was seriously intense, and once I hit the final page, I immediately stopped and flipped back over the pages. I couldn’t believe I hit the end already. This might have been the most enthralled I’ve been in a book, and it seriously took me to another place as I read it.

As for the art, what can I say, it’s amazing. It enhances an already wonderful story. It delivers panel pacing and page turns exactly like it should, alongside character design and coloring that brings the whole thing to life. The star of the show though was definitely the dragon in this issue. It’s bright, vibrant, whimsical, and powerful looking, and probably my favorite of the series, which isn’t to say the others were bad, but this one really struck a chord with me.

All in all, as we wrap up the Dragons series, I have to say that I wish I had read these sooner. I purchased the set back at Wondercon, and had no idea what I was holding. Every page, every story, every character was top-notch and delivered in a way that made me a fan. There isn’t a chance that I’ll miss any of these books as they come out now, and next week we jump into the Giants series which just launched in December of last year…which was literally like a week ago.

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