Review: Order of Tales


Say what you will about J. R. R. Tolkien’s body of work*, it’s had its influence on just about every fantasy work created since his time. Whether people emulate him through sad-but-overbearing elves, hard-drinking dwarves with a brick-like language, and twisted monsters direct from old folk-tales—or assert that their fantasy races are nothing like his—it becomes almost a game to find bits and traces of Middle-Earth peeking out of other series. One reason for this, in my opinion, is the amount of work that Tolkien put into building his world. He sat down and named just about every location and landmark, developed languages and dialects and lineages and histories for peoples that would barely even see print. He was still building his world when he died, and his son Christopher has been keeping up the production of the History of Middle-Earth ever since.

Working in a similar manner is Evan Dahm, the creator of Rice Boy who is currently working on a prequel called Order of Tales. Dahm has set up a wiki on his site to collect all the information he’s put together concerning his work, including various names, places, and languages he’s set out to create. On the one hand, I admire the sheer amount of effort that must be going into this, and on the other hand, I’m left to wonder if he gets to do much of anything with his time other than design and lecture.**

If you’re well-enough versed in Tolkien’s work, you can definitely see a relationship between Order of Tales and The Silmarillion. Both deal with creation stories, both deal with great wars in prehistory, both trail after the search for lost items of power, and both are bewildering if taken out of context. Of course, where Tolkien had races borrowed directly from folklore, Dahm prefers to use robots, anteaters, animals, and horned creatures named for grammatical concepts. (The jury’s still out as to what species the protagonist, Koark, really is.)

Confusing species aside, the art style of Order of Tales is rich and surreal, lavishing detail on landscapes and calligraphy alike. And where Rice Boy was full of vibrant colors, Order of Tales is a story of grim shadows and terrible bleakness. It’s an interesting step that mirrors an equal maturation in the way that Dahm writes his dialogue, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in the future.

Comic Rating: Three silmarils.

* Granted, most complaints that I hear are along the lines of “The text just drags! It’s so boring …” or “This is nothing like the movie.”
** I think the insurance rates on my glass house just went up.

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