Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #139 by Drew Barth

A Wide Range of Magic

Comics, for the most part, come in a couple forms. There’s the monthly floppies that open up like a pamphlet; the newspaper strips read horizontally every day; and the graphic novels that cozy up next to the rest of the books on your shelf. And, as readers, that’s what we’re used to. It’s what we’ve been used to for a while now with the exception of some special issues and formats. Echolands by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman, Dave Stewart, and Todd Klein is one of those special issues, but this time extended into a full series and bound just a little bit differently.

If there was ever a time to use the phrase “widescreen comics” it would be in the case of Echolands. The comic sits on its side and open horizontally—creating a single image on each page of more than twenty inches across. So, what’s being told across all this real estate? A story of thieves, wizards, and the kind of urban fantasy that takes whole chunks of cities and tropes and smashes them together into a small space. It’s fantasy, but in such a way that we can see bits and pieces of the modern world poking out. Hope is the thief and we first find her running through this fantasy city after having stolen a jewel so precious that the entire city begins to look for her. As clever and connected as she is, she’s found by the daughter of the wizard she stole the jewel from—a strange being made more of magic than anything else. And, for a first issue, that’s all we’re given.

What’s most captivating about the story from the outset is both the formatting of the book and the way its art plays with the space. Williams III and Blackman are known for their work on Batwoman  a few years ago and are taking all of those lessons into Echolands, but have made some adjustments. Due to its shape, the story itself feels constant—it moves as a pace that many other series can’t hope to match with their traditional layouts. Much of this first issue is a chase scene and the length of these pages only adds to that feeling of continual movement as we run by this new world that unfolds before us. It’s an incredible use of this space that I’ve only ever really seen in digital comics like The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughn, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente, and to physically hold the series gives it a completely different dimension.

Right now, Echolandsis a series that wants you to pick it up and thumb through these widescreen pages physically. There’s an impact from seeing the pages unfurl across such a wide space and seeing how Williams III, Blackman, Stewart, and Klein can continually reinvent how our eyes will follow along with such a different kind of page format. While this is only the first issue, it’s going to be interesting to see if this sense of exploration can continue as long as the series does.

Get excited. Get wide.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.