In the third issue of The Storyteller, the story teller tells a story about a storyteller who tells stories to save a magical island. Yeah, say that three times fast. Okay so maybe I said that as complicated as possible on purpose. Let me break it down a little better. The Phantom Isle is a tale about a sailor who loves to tell stories of his grand adventures at sea. One fateful day his ship strikes a reef and sinks, and he is lost to the ocean. Thinking himself dead, he washes up on the shore of a magical island full of witches. The witches reveal that he is on the legendary island of Avalon, a safe haven for magical creatures, but that the island is dying. Imagination runs the island and the witches have grown complacent and sedentary. They are out of stories to tell. The sailor, always happy to spin a yarn, breathes life back into the island and in the process becomes an inhabitant himself. However, after a time he too runs out of tales to tell. What will be the fate of him and the island?
So here’s the deal, I have been raving for some time now about The Storyteller, and how excited I have been to read them. I love The Storyteller, Henson, and all things witch. I have also mentioned how interesting of a concept it is to have a single creator make each new issue in whatever story and setting they deem fit. A very cool idea, but not without its risks. Four different voices and four different stories does leave a fairly large chance that one of the issues will just not be for you. For me, that was this issue. Now, before I break this down, I’d like to put up a bit of a disclaimer. This comic definitely still had its moments, and for some I’m sure it will be beautiful an resonate deeply. For me it just fell a little flat.
For one, I’m not a big fan of the art this time around. While I understand the artistic use of sketchy drawings and muted color palates, I just don’t like them. I like big bright colors. Does that make me juvenile and unrefined? Perhaps, but a gal likes what she likes (SHINY)! The other major concern with the art is the lack of detail. A 600 year time jump occurs in the middle of the plot, but neither the art nor the garb of any of the mainland humans change. I get the feeling this was done on purpose as part of the circular theme, but it just bugged me.
Secondly, the story just didn’t do it for me this time around. Creator Matthew Dow Smith choose to focus his story on well, the meaning and impact of stories. It’s just all a bit too meta for me. For example, we open the comic with several pages of the Storyteller commenting on the nature of stories before we even get to the main story… which is about a sailor who like to tell stories. I found this gave a very slow start to the plot. On top of that, since the real focus of the comic was stories, the witches part of this issue of “The Storyteller:Witches” fell short. It was so lacking in witches, in fact, that they could be entirely removed from the comic with little to no consequence to the plot.
In The Phantom Isle, the sailor becomes a part of the magical island, and discovers that time has passed differently than on the mainland. He also learns that because he is now a part of the island’s magic, he can no longer set foot on the mainland, or he will die. The problem is this, the sailor and the island could exist entirely without the witches. His immortality could just be from the magic of the island. It doesn’t even need to be a witch to warn him about it. Hell it could be a magical flying pig that tells him he can’t go back home. Or maybe he could have just fallen asleep ala Rip Van Winke. Basically, there’s not enough witchy goodness in the issue. In a witch-centric mini series I expect them to be an integral part of the plot.
Lastly, I’ll say it. I hated the ending. Spoiler alert, by the way.
So he finds the island of Avalon. They need stories and imagination to live, so he tells them all his stories, but then he runs out and he’s bored and lonely. He goes back to the mainland, warned he mustn’t touch the ground, or his immortality will be taken.
“Six months on the island has been hundreds of years back home. His family is gone, his home was a crumbled ruin. His friends were long dead. Everything he’d known had disappeared in the time he’d been away. He had no life to return to, and in that moment, he was truly lost.”
Okay, so first of all, it’s a little melodramatic compared to the tone of the rest of the story. Secondly, what family? I thought he sailed around and had adventures and told tales? Anyway, so story telling ruined his life, right? What’s a poor immortal sailor to do? Well he decides immortality sucks, and so he steps on the ground, and becomes mortal. As the decades return to him, he staggers into the bar to tell one last story, his tale of Avalon.
I feel like there’s something I’m not getting. Stories ruined his life… so the best course of action is to tell one last story? I’m not sure what they were going for here. Was it so that he wouldn’t die forgotten? Why did he feel the need to tell one last fantastic tale, if it’s telling tales that made him so miserable? I feel like there is some deep meaning I’m missing here that went over my head.
This one was just not for me. Overall, I feel like this issue just tried too hard. The attempt was to make a deep and meaningful commentary on the nature of stories and human’s affinity for them, and it just kinda fell flat. My other major problem was the lack of witches. I didn’t pick up the series for a deep introspection of stories, I picked them up for witches. The comic did have its moments and some lovely sentiments, and it may be just perfect for some readers out there, so do give it a try, it just wasn’t for me.
The Storyteller: Witches The Phantom Isle is available from Archaia Comics