Written by: John Williams
Art by: Daniel Wong
Colours by: Paris Alleyne
Letters by: Andrew A. Thomas
Cover by: Lamin Martin
Published by: Joe Books
In March 2014, an 11-minute short film about a dimension-travelling wizard entitled “The Portal” laid the foundation stones for the Riftworld Chronicles we know today. The latter, of course, is the multi-award winning webseries, an as of yet 8-episode story which centres around the struggling journalist Kim and her encounter with the wizard Alar. The series has gone from strength to strength since its inception, so it came as no surprise that the Riftworld team felt bold enough to take on a new format.
When it was announced that Riftworld Chronicles would transport itself to the comic world under the guise Riftworld Legends, fans of the series were happy to see writer/director John Williams maintain his place at the helm. Daniel Wong (Art), Paris Alleyne (Colours), Lamin Martin (Cover), and Andrew A. Thomas (Letters) help to make up the rest of the team for the ten-part adventure. Issues #1 and #2 are now in stores, with the third instalment due in late August 2017.
The story of Riftworld Legends itself is told from two perspectives, with space on the page cleverly blurred between them to create the mythic effect desired. In one timeline Fiona makes ready for her confirmation. She receives an unexpected visit from her grandmother, whose presence in the house alone is enough to create tension for Fiona’s parents. But for Fiona, it’s a chance to hear another of grandma’s fabled stories. Judging the young girl’s mother and stepfather out of earshot, her grandmother decides to tell her about the Riftworld.
The second timeline revolves around “Jackie”, a journeyman thief who finds himself employed as a deckhand aboard a ship bound for India. Wrapped in mist, the plucky vessel braves the perils of the North Atlantic. But when young Jackie Fortune spots uncharted land, he and his companions dream up riches and a place in history. What Jackie soon learns however, is that the tales of Hy-Breasil he’d heard as a child weren’t the stuff of legend. The island is real. So too is the Riftworld.
John Williams, who gave us a peak of his firepower in Portal and Riftworld Chronicles, brings the full arsenal to bear in Riftworld Legends. Played out against the backdrop of the Age of Explorations, his story of two mariners marooned in a tropical paradise is far from just another Treasure Island reboot. Here Williams gives us the exotic, jungle landscape we’ve come to expect, but instead of populating it with only pirates and buried gold, throws in some magic, mythical beasts and mystery for good measure. It’s Lost meets Castaway meets King Kong, with the added complexity of the Riftworld layering a whole new depth previously unheard of.
Thankfully, it’s not only Williams whose guns find the mark in Riftworld Legends. Daniel Wong stakes a big claim with his artwork, creating a myriad of diverse images that will keep even the sharpest critic happy. Right from the first panel, it’s clear Wong wants the fantastical to breathe in every scratch of his pencil, and with the colours of Paris Alleyne for company, the overall close-to-cartoon graphics range from jaw-dropping ocean views to foreboding shadowy tombs to lush, amazon–esque jungle floors.
The comic itself has a broad appeal, as reflected in the cover, where elements of fantasy, adventure and horror collide. The overall product is staggering for what is in many ways, a first wavy step into a new chapter of Riftworld. We would forgive Williams a few mistakes as he moves his creation from the screen to the glossy pages, but the writer clearly has no intention of letting this chance slip by. Everything from dialogue to pacing, from scene structure to characterisation, stands up to the very best you’re like to find in the genre. Riftworld Legends, which drew its inspiration from short film, masters the same economic use of space. It gives us only enough backstory to want more-asks us only enough questions as needed. And with revelations about Fiona’s future as daunting as the peril that awaits Jackie beyond the treeline, we have no choice but to plunge further into the world of Riftworld Legends to find the answers.