Eric's Archaia Comics Review: JIM HENSON'S THE STORYTELLER (Hardcover)

Somewhere, I hope that Jim Henson is smiling down to see this excellent comic that bears his name. With scares, thrills, tricks and magic, The Storyteller captures the wonder that made the show such a treat for audiences young and old.

I will always have a critical affinity for comic anthologies. They force (in a good way) the creators to work within strict confines of size and, in this case, content, which shows their true mettle. With Jim Henson's The Storyteller, powerhouses of the medium from Marjorie Liu to Ron Marz show that the folklore of Europe, Appalachia, and Asia are in capable hands. Each of these stories have been told before, so the trick is in the execution. Some of these tales will be familiar, some new, but every single one is treated with a sense of reverence and magic in this wonderful collection. With a little more than ten writers on the project, it's amazing how each speaks with the same narrative tones while adding a bit of unique styling, which gives a feel as if it is whole and the book in its entirety is a definite buy for any lover of a well spun yarn. Comic fan parents will particularly get some grade A use out of The Storyteller alongside Art Spiegelman's Little Lit series (Shameless plug).

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In most cases in collections such as this, it is easy to pick out one or two stories that seem to place themselves above the rest, but that is where the synergy comes into play. While that could be to the book's detriment, every story is heightened by it neighbor. It's the narrative sense of community which heightens the other to a great degree. “The Witch Baby,” which was adapted from an unproduced teleplay from the original television series, and “Old Fire Dragaman,” however, have some nightmare potential for younger reader/listeners, so one might proceed with caution for fear of a restless night. All ends happily, though, with some type of universal lesson learned in the end. Each tale has a hint of the ancient and the lure of wonderful discovery, even as it approaches the familiar such as Majorie Liu's romantic retelling of “Puss in Boots.” It accomplishes the explicit goal of Jim Henson's original vision of recreating the feeling of stories being told be a fire with all the embellishments that entails. It shows that comics are not unlike the embers of the flame which dance to form the semblance of what is being told combined with just the right shadow, warmth, and imagination.

Jim Henson's The Storyteller is chock full of amazing art, but favorites can be chosen (depending on one's tastes) from the eclectic styles on display here. For me, Jennifer L. Meyer's art for “Puss in Boots” was the most strikingly beautiful with its strong use of fuzzy charcoal grays that look like they could float off the page at any moment. Dreams are the story's central theme, which is completely conveyed in the visuals. Tom Fowler's work on “Old Fire Dragaman” uses smoke in a much more heavy form to create imagery of great foreboding as the ever-scheming jack face off against a seemingly insurmountable foe. If that furrows one's brow, Katie Cook's exceptionally cute style is an adorable palette cleanser. While some will prefer some styles to others, there's hardly a dud to be found throughout the entire book with each piece of imagery befitting its tale to a tee.

The greatest compliment that can be paid to this book is that it lives up to the legacy of the man whose name is in the title. In a world in which reboots, remakes, and retellings are the norm, its great to be reminded of a guy who decided to do a serious fantasy feature film using puppets (Dark Crystal) or who changed the landscape of educational television by creating a program that didn't talk down to children (Sesame Street). The Storyteller feels like a Jim Henson product and, for that, it is wonderful.

Story: Anthony Minghella, Susan Kodieck, Anne Mountfield, Nate Cosby, Ron Marz, Katie Cook, Paul Tobin, Majorie Liu, Jeff Parker, Chris Eliopoulos, Colleen Coover, & Roger Landridge
Art: Jordie Bellaine, Mike Maihack, Tom Fowler, Jennifer L. Meyer, Evan Shaner, Katie Cook, Colleen Coover, Craig Rousseau, Ronan Cliquet, & Adam Street
Cover: Patrick Scherberger & Mike Maihack
113 Pages/FC (Hardcover)
On Sale December 14, 2011!

5 Stars