Canto has learned that his target is someone called the Shrouded Man who lives in the Emerald Tower. Will the yellow road lead him there? Find out in Canto #4!

Canto #4 ReviewCANTO #4

Writer: David M. Booher
Artist: Drew Zucker
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Editor: David Mariotte
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 11, 2019

Previously in Canto: His people are enslaved workers who have had their hearts taken and replaced with a clockwork mechanism. Canto ventured forth to find the real heart of the one he loves, searching first for a mysterious hermit. Along the way, a fearsome but friendly Malorex joined him. At the hermit’s lake, they were attacked by an enormous kraken – only to find out that it is a trick. The Hermit is a former slaver who created the kraken to frighten people away so he could be a hermit. He reveals that the slavers too have had their hearts removed, and both people are forced to do the bidding of someone called the Shrouded Man, who lives in the Emerald Tower in the City of Dis, which is Canto’s next stop.


Loosely based on themes from the Wizard of Oz, Canto #4 is the hero’s journey of the title character, set in a fascinating world that is as full of danger as it is full of wonder. Canto and the friendly Malorex reach the City of Dis and can see the Emerald Tower reaching toward the heavens. The city is surrounded by a wall and the gate guarded by giants.

Canto tries to get the Malorex to stay outside, where it is safe. He’s convinced the creature can understand him, but it gives no indication of doing so, just looking on hopefully until Canto lets him come along. The giant guards are in the best folk tradition of bickering giants, amusing without getting too silly. Canto counters their verbal challenges, which they don’t expect either. He also threatens to fight them, when he is joined by a woman who gets the guards to argue between themselves so they can all sneak in.

This woman has a plan for getting to the Shrouded Man. She wants to free her people, who are enslaved. This is much bigger than Canto was expecting, and has been going on much longer, so long that people have simply become used to it, because it’s the way things have always been. That is a deep observation; how many things in life continue without question simply because it’s the way things have always been?

She also knows that Canto’s name is special – it means a song, or part of an epic poem. He must be part of a bigger story. And when he asks her for her name, she says that she is no one. She enters a building, leaving Canto and the Malorex on the street where they wait. And wait. The Malorex dozes off and Canto is suddenly confronted by strange people in robes and masks who question what he is doing, appear to know about his quest, who know about the story he knows and tells himself, and who make it clear that they know he is going to fail.

The woman comes back and frightens them off. These are Furies, or apparitions of Furies, manifestations of the Shrouded Man’s hate and fear. They sow unrest and doubt. But Canto is still stubborn in his belief that he can succeed, and the woman thinks she has found a way into the Emerald Tower.


Canto #4, like many fantasy stories, is set in a quasi-medieval world. Despite the omnipresent yellow brick road, Dis looks more like a medieval city than the Hollywood version of Oz. The Emerald Tower rises about three times the height of the tallest other buildings in the city, and it looks starkly dissimilar to everything around it. The look is enhanced by the inking, which uses a mix of heavy and lighter lines that give the art a look that resembles woodcuts. I like that effect on a story that keeps touching on the ideas of a classic fairy tale.

The character work is so interesting too. I love the two giants who are massive and who have their own distinct styles. They may be partially comic relief, but they’re also individuals who look like they have a history. I realized this time that Canto, forever in his helmet, has only his eyes and his body language for expression, but it works. In his confrontation with the Furies we see his fear, his doubt, and his determination. The Furies are fascinating – again, their apparitions are hooded and masked. We see the narrow, hostile slits of their eyes, and their robes flow behind them as though they have lives of their own. The long narrow masks, like bandannas but more dramatic, are a really cool touch.


Canto #4 has a hero you feel you can really get behind. The stakes are downright serious in this world – utter oppression. Canto has an apparent ally – but who is she really, and can she be trusted? And the Shrouded Man, as a more sinister take on the Wizard of Oz, is fascinating. I really love how they dig down to the bones of Oz and use that structure to spin an entirely new tale.

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Canot #4

An entirely new tale

Canto’s world is a bigger place than he imagined, with an uglier secret at its heart.

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About Author

By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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