We’re dropping it low in this week’s “So You Want To Read Comics.” This is our weekly feature where we take a look at a single topic or genre and then give you a pair of comic book recommendations, perfect for new readers, based on that topic or genre. This week we’re taking a closer look at Low Fantasy.
Last week we looked at High Fantasy, so it only makes sense we look at the other side of that coin. Low fantasy, like its altitude-enhanced counterpart, doesn’t neatly fit into one definition for all people. Typically it’s seen as fantasy that takes place within our world, sometimes in very extravagant ways or very subtle. There are some who use the term simply to denote fantasy that has a more realistic bend to it and avoids more grandiose displays of magic and supernatural elements. Low fantasy is typically used as a way to create a juxtaposition between the mundane and the fantastic. With a real-world as a setting, we often get glimpses of things we’re familiar with, yet through the lens of something otherworldly interacting with it. Television, movies, and books have long blended the fantastic with the realistic, and comic books are no different.
Now, based on how wide the definition for low fantasy can be, a case can be made for almost anything to be considered low fantasy, so for these recommendations, we’re going to avoid doing any sort of extreme mental gymnastics to make something fit. The fantasy elements here are going to be pretty obvious.
Once & Future
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
One of the things that low fantasy is great at is taking elements that people have well-established expectations for and flipping them on their heads by introducing an element of realism to it. For example, what if instead of the paragon of virtue and chivalry that we all know King Arthur to be, what if he was an angry murderous beast of myth and legend? Well, that’s what you get in Once & Future. Here a group of British nationalists utilizes the occult to try and bring King Arthur into our modern world, but what they get is not at all what they expect, so it’s up to a pair of monster hunters, one of whom is in their 80s, to track down Arthur and stop him. Low fantasy excels at this sort of realistic spin on a supernatural trope. There have been plenty of fantasy stories of people trying to resurrect some powerful being, but here in low fantasy do we get the unique spin of this trope being utilized by fascists for political sway.
I Kill Giants
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: J.M. Ken Niimura
Publisher: Image Comics
The other place that low fantasy really excels at is its usage as a metaphor. In many low fantasy stories what you get is the fantastic elements being utilized as symbolism for something more realistic but hard to cope with. In that regard, there aren’t many other low fantasy stories that exemplify this as I Kill Giants. This series is about a young woman named Barbara who believes that giants are coming and with them a ton of bad things and she’s the only one who can stop it. A majority of this series deals with how Barbara’s life is spilt in half between her real life in which she’s a bit of an outcast and doesn’t handle people well, and is filled with secrets, and this fantasy world that becomes somewhat of a refuge for her, as well as something that plagues her as the two worlds, start to seep into each other. It’s a celebrated series that can be read through in just a couple of sittings
What are some of your favorite Low Fantasy stories? What do you think of our recommendations? Let us know in the comment section.