Page 45 Review by Stephen
"A terrible thing, hate.
"It takes root deep within your heart, expanding like branches from a tree, until it turns you into something you barely recognise."
Dragons are a draw. Few words sell comics or art books so successfully as we discovered with IN SEARCH ON DRAGONS. You might try FOUR EYES with two books out now as well, and why not pop "dragon" into our search engine?
The quote above comes from Jorge Corona's adaptation of the Japanese legend of Yofune-Nushi, which explores hatred as an often ill-informed waste of space and spiritual energy, and self-sacrifice as the only viable option when it comes to love, as a woman goes in search of her exiled father.
The first of these four self-contained stories involves a similar separation and boasts more than one gorgeous, fanged, aquatic dragon with iridescent dermal scales and wild-stag antlers, along with other beasts resplendent in equally ornate markings, all drawn by Daniel Bayliss.
A proud father is taking his young son fishing with spears, determined to pass on his skills of self-sufficiency and provision. He urges his son to pay attention. However:
"Most fathers often struggle with being too hard or too soft on their children. And this father was no exception. But with just a wink he could set his son's mind at ease."
The pair become caught in the middle of a maelstrom as a serpent - rising up from the waters to strike them down - is itself seized upon by airborne, electrically charged Thunderbirds which shatter the skies which their "Skreeee!" The boat is broken in two and the father and son are separated. The son is washed ashore, stranded on a strange island and forages for what food he can find; the father too is washed ashore, on an island too barren even to provide material for a raft.
Guess what lives there, then?
It's a heartbreakingly poignant tale, with plenty of surprises I haven't even hinted at but every word that I've written and quoted is relevant to the many subsequent twists. Of course, if you're going to call a comic STORYTELLER and you can't tell stories then you're only setting yourself up as a laughing stock.
It includes the words "dreadful", "ghastly", "deafening" and "fury".
Hannah Christenson was the creator I singled out for praise in MOUSE GUARD: LEGENDS OF THE GUARD VOL 3, and she brings the same flair to bear on something much more fiery here.
My only personal disappointment was Nathan Pride's version of The Legend Of The Lambton Worm, but perhaps I'd been spoiled by Bryan Talbot's intense rendition within ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, mimicking the language of the period and alluding to illuminated manuscripts with its page frames and decorated title page. Typically of Talbot, he also took the trouble to pause, mid-Crusade, to give that nasty little piece of Christian history the savaging it deserves, encompassing it within the legend's central tenet of the Devil being at play, and arrogance being punished by its curse upon successive generations to come.
By contrast, in deference to the dog, Pride changes the ending, diluting what was supposed to be an unremittingly harsh tale right to its treacherous end.
I was never a fan of the framing device of an overly knowing bloke preaching to his pooch. He was thankfully absent from STORYTELLER: WITCHES which contains some seriously beautiful and unusual compositions, but his presence here didn't detract from my enjoyment of the stories he's telling.
Also available: the original JIM HENSON'S THE STORYTELLER collection.