By Ben Kooyman
Louie Joyce’s Footsteps, reviewed last year, was a dialogue and narration-free exercise in purely visual storytelling about a wayfarer navigating alien terrain. Joyce’s topnotch artwork can be seen in the new series Past the Last Mountain, written by Paul Allor. Described as a “geopolitical fantasy” about “a troll, faun and dragon … on the run from the United States government”, the first two issues are available through Comixology. Joyce has also uploaded a preview of the series’ first eight pages, which we take a look at below, on his website…
The series is set in an alternate reality where humans and creatures from fairytales and fables exist uncomfortably side by side. The humans occupy posts of authority, with the creatures segregated to desert terrain behind perimeter fences. When a troll uncharacteristically breaks free from its enclosure, Neil, loving husband & father and director of the unnamed organisation tasked with monitoring the creatures, is flown in to investigate. Meanwhile, the troll, faun and dragon of the series’ logline seize the opportunity to embark on their own important journey.
The eight pages comprising the preview tease the world of Past the Last Mountain and showcase Joyce’s knack for clean visual storytelling and effectively rendering otherworldly critters. Where Footsteps transpired off-world (to borrow a Blade Runner-ism), this series (so far at least) is earthbound, and Joyce’s otherworldly fauna contrasts nicely with the earthly Montanan flora. His muted colour palette (bar a couple of choice panels of eye-popping red) also helps add a sheen of earthy authenticity, grounding the fantastical.
Past the Last Mountain looks to be a myths-and legends-walk-among-us-today narrative in the same tradition as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Bill Willingham’s long-running Fables. The “geopolitical” dimension promised in the logline is an intriguing wrinkle. Allusions are made to wars long past between humans and goblins, and a usually docile troll sacrifices herself so that our likely protagonists can set off on their mission, so the stakes are high and the fight (whatever it is) worth fighting. Will the series use its fantastical icons and central conflict to comment on, say, racial segregation, foreign policy, border security, or the vested domestication of the imagination? Or maybe something completely different?