This awesome webcomic from Adam Ma and Colin Tan, Folklore reads like Kingdom Come meets the Walking Dead as we enter a world where super villains came close to destroying humanity, but humans have retaliated with devastating effects for all involved. Can the last few survivors come together to find out what has happened and start a new life?
Folklore is a really well put together slice of post-apocalyptic, powers-based story-telling. Set in a world where super villains nearly wiped out humanity in a high profile act of terrorism, the humans have struck back and neutralised the threat using the arc – a nuclear bomb style weapon which has eliminated all super powers – for both villains and heroes – but has it? The side effects of the arc are not all positive with some heroes now turned to monsters as a result. Our story follows a band of human refugees who are attempting to join up with fellow survivors and along the way encounter fallen hero ‘Helios’ in the former stronghold of Bastion. This sets in a place a series of Walking Dead style mini adventures as they attempt to find their fellow refugees .
The concepts in Folklore, while not always feeling truly unique, are still well conceived and the world building is excellent. Ma and Tan have pieced together the various familiar elements of their back story to create a really strong world concept in which the characters can operate. With it coming from a webcomic background, the urgency to move the story along isn’t as prevalent as it would be in a print comic, and as such nearly the whole first issue is about building the world and giving us the background. But that’s OK as there is a lot to get through and the story it is telling is as important as where everything is going long term. It reminded us a lot of Dan Butcher’s Vanguard in this respect with the back story and context-setting, being as important as the action in the early stages. While the post apocalyptic and 21st century approach to powers story telling furthers that comparison, it also reminded us of titles like Kingdom Come and even Old Man Logan – and even indie favourite Gun (and it;s visual style certainly echoes Jack Foster’s excellent series).
Although the world building and concept is excellent, it doesn’t really allow much space for the subsequent characters to shine. With the world and the heroes as a focus, it lacks that central non-powered figure. To continue our constant comparisons to The Walking Dead it lacks a Rick Grimes to really power things forward. And while Helios is a strong addition, the others have yet to really find their voices. However this feels like a story with grand ideas and so there is plenty of time to really get to know everyone.
Visually it’s a real treat with Tan blending an anime infused style with some incredible digital painting. The early issues have a real rawness to them, with some of the panels looking quite impressionistic and not worrying too much about intricate detail to get things across. The painting style is quite loose, and while this means some of the faces and detailing are not as perfect as the could be, there is a real sense of motion and pace to the storytelling that would have been lost with a more formal style.
Shining through this roughness though is an incredible eye for composition with Tan crafting some really high impact and powerful scenes, as well as some epic world shots. The scenes of the super villain incident felt very Alex Ross like at times (continuing that Kingdom Come comparison), but mixed with that anime style compositing and frenetic action creates a really unique and potent style. As the series has progressed the artwork has gotten a little tighter, but never at the expense of that energy and it looks truly spectacular!
Overall, Folklore is a really smartly composed piece of 21st Century superhero story telling. We often bemoan a lack of originality in this field, but Folklore manages to assemble a collection of familiar elements in a unique way to make a really strong collective – especially when brought to life ins such a visually stunning presentation. With the first two volumes now available in collected form, the story feels like it is here for the long run, there is plenty of time for it to find its voice with it’s own unique moments and getting to that point will be one hell of a journey.