Review – Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Ghosts #1 (BOOM! Studios)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios (Archaia imprint)
Story & Art: Márk László
Colours: Patricio Delpeche
Letters: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 11th March 2020

In Scandinavian Folklore, there are tales of a spirit known as the Myling. A vengeful spirit cursed to wander endlessly, inflicting pain on others to relieve its own. The Storyteller sits by the fire, throwing Dog another bone and leaning back in his chair, the firelight setting shadows dancing, and tells the tragic tale of the twins of Teveden.

For those of you out there who, like me, are in your forties, you will I’m sure remember the TV show The Storyteller. In 1989, the usually impeccable John Hurt in the guise of The Storyteller, brought us tales from European folklore; but not the Disney versions, the original dark and twisted morality tales that n’er saw a musical number. Rewatching this series now, 30 years later, it hasn’t aged well. As much as I’d love to let nostalgia take the reins, this was not Jim Henson’s finest hour, and John Hurt really was the only truly watchable thing in this series. I’m not entirely sure what went on in the Jim Henson Workshop when they were producing this show, but this was nowhere near the quality of writing or puppets that we had become used to and I think this may speak to why we only ever got one series.

I think the main issue I had with this as a TV series was the narrator. I grew up on Fraggle Rock which predominantly featured an old man (the Captain), telling stories to his dog (Sprocket). In the Storyteller, we had a slightly sinister old man telling stories to his dog… There is no way they could have not anticipated the comparison. Unfortunately, where Fraggle Rock was a wonderful fantasy world that did have its odd dark moment, The Storyteller was unrepentantly dull, and dark (not in a good way). No matter how good John Hurt is, there’s no way you could shake the feeling that small brightly coloured creatures should be popping out of the corners singing something cheery and up tempo.

That being said, this is a property that is long overdue for a revival, and rumours abounded last year of Neil Gaiman being linked to a new TV series that has yet to materialise. In lieu of a TV show, a comic series is the next best thing, giving more freedom in the interpretations of each of the folk creatures that the stories are based on and really allowing the creators to go to town on bringing those worlds to life.

Unfortunately, I’m beginning to think this property is cursed because, this is not the reboot/reimagining of The Storyteller that is should be or dare I say that we deserve. The Storyteller himself, is not much improved on the version we’ve seen before, if anything he’s more of a caricature that wastes no opportunity to relieve us of any tension that the main story is building.

The story of the Myling itself is, however, pretty good. I love old European folk tales and I love to see them brought to life in comics. This particular story is not one I’ve read before so it’s a treat to come across something genuinely new to me. However, the delivery just doesn’t seem to land for me. It feels like it can’t work out whether it wants to be a young adult story or a fully-fledged horror story.

The other problem I have is the use of language. There’s something very stilted about it, particularly with the narration which feels like they’re forcing it to sound like how John Hurt would have spoken it, and it’s very distracting. Rather than evolve and outgrow the source material this seems like it wants to stick rigidly to the original brief. I’m wondering if that is what has caused the story to fall down so badly, because Márk László certainly has the creative ability to produce a good story, as can clearly be seen in the artwork in this issue.

The artwork is the redeeming factor of this issue. I really like Márk László’s work throughout, it sets the right tone for the story that it’s bringing to life, and has the style of some of the more recent Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stories. It really is a shame that the rest of the issue just doesn’t hold up as well.

I’m really disappointed. This is an opportunity to build a fantastic series in a world where folk horror has had something of a revival, but in a field of competition that includes titles such as Hellboy, Harrow County, Wytches, Redlands, or Hillbilly (to name but a few), this just isn’t good enough, and that is a huge shame, as it really should be better.

Rating: 2/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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