I’ll preface this review with a statement that, ordinarily, would be found nearer to the end: Drop whatever else it is you’re doing and buy Echolands.
Honestly. What J.H. Williams III (hereafter referred to as JHW3) has crafted here, along with a similarly talented crew of artists and designers, is nothing short of fantastic. Echolands is a frenetic fever dream, twisting and warping folklore and fairytales into a surreal new mythology inhabiting a world stunningly like our own yet also utterly alien.
If you’re not already familiar with JHW3’s body of work, know that he is a stylistic chameleon who does not constrain himself to any particular aesthetic. Nor does he bother with anything like conventional layouts and simple linear story flow. Immediately upon holding Echolands in your hot little hands, you’ll first notice its format: it is wider than it is tall. This is something cleverly done to allow JHW3 more room to play with the aforementioned structure and flow, and it’s brilliant. The action of Echolands, the meat of it, moves at a dizzying pace along lines and within boxes that defy the norms of typical comic structure and it creates an exhilarating experience thatat first may seem confusing but has been constructed so well with such attention to detail that it guides the eye around the pages with little effort.
And the pages. Echolands has some of the lushest, prettiest, exciting art I’ve seen in a while and it’s yet another testament to JHW3’s skill that every single page can be so full to bursting yet never seem overcrowded or like any elements are at odds with each other. Here again, convention is bucked and we see styles and aesthetics thrown together in ways that may at first seem bizarre but instead blend together. Painted fairytale heroines cavort next to Kirby-esque demigods while characters that would feel at home in Sunday funnies yammer away. There are “dracs” and “steins” and zombies that exist entirely in monochromatic brushstrokes and more visual homages than can be easily counted within the pages of Echolands, but it’s a lot of fun to try.
Because each of these disparate styles serves a larger purpose within the narrative of Echolands, which is itself a story about stories. A world wherein stories, tall tales, myths and more have come alive and exist together in a tumultuous and outrageous world that might have at one time been our own world. The plot revolves around a quest, which nominally pushes everything forward, but the story is about the characters and their interactions as they define themselves and the world around them. Regretfully, it’s an adventure that ends all too soon after it begins, but it’s alright, because it’s only the first part of the adventure and there is more of Echolands to come. And I, for one, can’t wait.
Woven together by J.H. Williams III and his talented team, Echolands is an incredible piece of visual art and comic book storytelling that is engrossing, rapturous, and a hell of a lot of fun. Five stars, no question. Now go out there and get yourselves a copy.