The Goblin Chronicles
This one spins you, just a little, from the start. It opens with a world spanning five page introduction reminiscent in many ways of the opening sequence of Lord of the Rings. It then drops you into the middle of a heartwarming tale that, had it not been for the cover, you wouldn't have seen coming.
The introductory pages set the stage for the story and welcome the reader to the Four Realms. This pre-story tells of a Dark Queen usurping a legendary throne then casting the world she rules into war. That war pits elven nations against leagues of berserker tolls and goblin axemen. It is only when we witness the arrival of the otherworldly, unholy Host that the two sides come together versus a common enemy. In the end, this intro serves as the back story for the primary tale (we'll get to that in a moment) but you just know we'll return to it and the climatic events of that fifth page before this three issue series is complete.
This all feels feel quite epic and the art of Collin Fogel is spot on the mark delivering a tone that backs up the introduction. Even better, his art turns on a dime as the series shifts to a lighter nature beginning with page six. Fogel seems equally at home in both aspects of this story.
As we move into that main story, we are introduced to a goblin named Gorim. To say Gorim is a bit different from his friends would be an understatement. Gorim loves books. His friends love to fight. Gorim wants to be an inventor. His friends want to fight. Gorim feels there's more to life. Gorim's friends feel it's time to fight. You get the pattern I'm trying to show here...
Gorim is a cultural outsider that proves immediately understandable, likeable and sympathetic. Writers Troy Dye and Tom Kelsides pull off his introduction and unveil his situation with a wit that deftly avoids the need to hammer it all home which would be tempting to many writers.
Who is Gorim? In this first issue of The Goblin Chronicles, I have to admit seeing just a hint of the now classic Rudolph television story (maybe it's just the spirit of the season infecting my brain) as I watched an outsider struggling finding his way. If we're going to run with that reference for a moment, you can picture Hermey the Misfit Elf, only as a much more friendly and lovable goblin. Okay, take that image and sprinkle the character with the inventive charm Richard "Data" Wang from the movie Goonies. You're getting closer. Next, add some of the fun and humor we might see from a kid sized version of Shrek and you're pretty close to my first take on Gorim's personality. He's pint-sized and gadget laden, but he has to heart of a leader who just hasn't realized it yet.
As is the case in many a classic tale of adventure, Gorim begins to subtle upon new friends. First a dim witted female Troll named Zara. Next, a precarious shape changer named Sprig. Finally, we add a spell casting elven princess named Gween. One we learn the quartet was actually gathered together by a wise, wizardly tree named Imtrix, the game is on and the quest to upset the Dark Queen has begun.
Imtrix (the wizard in the tree) brings this issue full circle as he shares a story unveiling more of the history of the Dark Queen and the Four Realms. His tale returns the book to the majesty of those first five pages while setting the stage for the next two issues. Here, I'll skimp on details in the hope that you'll give the title a try and read that part of the story for yourself.
What did I think? I think this book set out to do a lot in the first issue. It did a great job weaving three different, but related stories into a single cohesive issue. I felt the meeting of the main four was a little rushed, but you only have so many pages to bring them together and, in the end, it was handled with humor which nicely bridged the gap.
This is a story that is at once both heartwarming and epic. That's something that can be hard to pull off simultaneously, but Dye and Kelesides make it happen here. Best of all, they kept it fun along the way. In issue #1, they serve up a solid starting point for an adventure which may prove both comical and heroic. The world in which the characters live is steeped in references to history, individuals and locations that make it clear the writers have laid out a well developed world for this adventure. References don't hang, but beg to be explored. That feeling of impending adventure made this a good read. The saturday morning quality of the main tale juxtaposed with the broader fantasy story made for a fine read. I'm on board for issue #2 and invite you to give that issue a try. I don't think either of us will be disappointed.