"Once upon a time...No...Just this one time. This kid...This kid really did not belong."
From the first lines of text in BOOM! Studios' Folklords #1, it is clear that the protagonist of the tale, differs from the other teenagers inhabiting his fantasy world. Everyone else wears clothes befitting the medieval lower-class. Ansel wears a self-fashioned suit and tie. His friends strive to seek out mythical MacGuffins and save damsels for their mandatory Quests. Ansel aims to search for the Folklords, a group only spoken of in whispered rumors because they are banned by the ruling Guild of Librarians. Every good story must have an enticing beginning, and Folklords #1 provides exactly that.
Written by Matt Kindt (MIND MGMT, Grass Kings) and with art from Matt Smith (Barbarian Lord, Lake of Fire), Folklords centers around Ansel, an 18-year-old boy in a rural fantasy town. Ansel is cursed with visions of another world filled with tall buildings, people in suits and wristwatches. While these images are familiar to the reader, they both fascinate and terrify Ansel.
No one in his village can give him any insight into the world that he sees in his dreams, so Ansel resolves to seek out the Folklords, a group shrouded in mystery and rumor, who may be able to give Ansel the knowledge that he craves. However, mere mention of the Folklords is a punishable offense to the Guild of Librarians, the hooded figures who appear to govern the town where Ansel lives. Will Ansel find the Folklords, as he so desperately desires? Why are the Folklords forbidden in the first place? Readers will have to dive into Ansel's world to find out.
While the 'hero plagued by visions of another planet' trope is not exactly revolutionary, Kindt and Smith have created an endearing main character in Ansel to drive the story with, and placed him in a charming fantasy world filled with trolls, thought control and, thankfully, goat pies. Both the writing and the art draw heavily from the fantasy genre but present welcome variations.
Smith renders the authoritarian Guild of Librarians with one eye covered. Their limited perspective potentially hints at their desire to remove nuanced vision from the populous. When the reader is shown one of Ansel's visions, it is distinct and ethereal. When the teenagers stand and declare the Quests that they seek to embark on (a rite of passage for all 18-year-olds in the realm), Kindt fills them with delightful subversions of classical quests, like finding mystical items, rescuing those in danger and defeating dangerous beasts. The world of Folklords is rich and full of history waiting to be explored in coming issues.
The premise of Folklords is both simple and enticing. Kindt and Smith have lovingly crafted a world filled with hidden motives, shadowy figures, and mysteries. Ansel's journey to uncover the meaning behind his otherworldly visions may be short, with the series only set to run for five issues, but the first steps have been strong, confident ones from the creative team, making Folklords #1 a delightful read.