Echolands is a frantically-paced Image Comics series that relies heavily on its innovative panel design and stunning artwork. The Batwoman creative team of J.H. Williams and Haden Blackman reunite for a new "mythic-fiction epic" that slams a variety of different genres, tropes, and art forms together. The series stars Hope Redhood, a thief with a dark past who manages a rare and dangerous score. While fleeing from jackboots through an ever-shifting cityscape. Redhood shows off her disgustingly impressive abilities before running into an enemy that seems perfectly suited to provider her a foil.
During their last collaboration, Williams and Blackman focused on unusual panel layouts accentuated by Williams' striking and unforgettable style. In Echolands #1, the creative duo made the choice for a landscape-formatted comic, meaning that every page is horizontally oriented instead of being the standard "vertical-style." It's a strange choice that helps to sell the alien-ness of the world of Echoland, and it also allows for more wide shots and large backgrounds featuring a series of inset panels. The horizontal panels took me a hot minute to get used to, but the pair of Williams and Blackman figure out ways to make the unusual layout work well. There are a handful of Williams' "classics" in the comic, where an entire page comes together to form a single piece of artwork that the sequential storytelling molds to fit. None are quite as stunning as what we saw in the pair's Batwoman run, but it's still gorgeous and I fully expect to see some awe-inspiring pages in future issues.
The actual world of Echolands is a messy one, filled with hodgepodges of different characters representing just about every genre in fiction. From cowboys to aliens to fantasy swordsman with everything in between, the comic shows that this world is populated by outcasts from just about every inch of literary ground. Many of these background characters are illustrated in different art styles, with black and white characters appearing next to fully colored ones and cartoons appearing next to hyper-realistic figures. Coupled with Rose's strange origin story (in which she, a fantasy-themed character, is given magical powers by tall grey man-esque aliens), makes me feel like Echolands will be an examination of literature or fiction, rather than a traditional tale. Outside of the deliberately disparate art styles, there's no textual acknowledgement of that, so that's a mystery we will have to wait to unfold in future issues.
When Blackman and Williams' Batwoman run was on bookstands, I commented that it was perhaps the one comic book which I read solely due to the artwork. For me, the story didn't matter in Batwoman - I picked up every issue to see how the pair of Williams and Blackman would innovate in panel designs and art. Echolands is experimental in the same way that Batwoman was - while it uses a more gimmicky innovation, it's still a gorgeously rendered comic and instantly becomes a comic with a unique look and feel unlike anything else in monthly comics circulation today. It's still too early to see how Echolands' story will play out, but this is definitely a comic you should try based on artwork alone.
Published by Image Comics
On August 25, 2021
Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Art by J.H. Williams III
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Todd Klein
Cover by J.H. Williams III