By Harrison Stewart — Freed from the prohibitive cost constraints of something like live-action production, comics can (and often do) tell gigantic stories with crazier, offbeat ideas. Titles like Saga and Freak perfectly exemplify this sprawling and deeply bizarre comic book tradition that work. by Liam Sharp StarHenge Book 1 #1 belongs to that same bloodline of grandiosity, delivering one of the most visually stunning books so far this year.
The story spans centuries, with the main action taking place over three interconnected time periods. In the present, high school student Amber Weaver feels drawn to the occult for reasons she can’t fully explain (“I’m a nerd witch. Take care of it”). In the distant future, a mysterious leader known as the Ur-Queen launches a desperate mission to save humanity by restoring ancient magic. And in the distant past, the Queen of Ur’s emissary arrives with little more than the name “Mer Lin”. But the real bonus is that all these threads happen simultaneously: think of Dr. Manhattan’s chapter of watchmen.
To accompany this immense period of time, Sharp imbues his work with a dizzying array of references and subject matter. These include: Arthurian legend, Celtic mythology, physics, linguistics, Spanish Inquisition, Edward Scissorhands, the origin of Satan, astronomy, and a generous dose of sci-fi goodness. So how do all these disparate elements fit together? Successfully, for the most part.
The biggest thing that makes it all work is Sharp’s remarkably distinct styling. This book feels like the culmination of a career, the signature statement of an artist in the making for decades. Sharp is in perfect control of his craft, effortlessly balancing realism with otherworldly splendor in pages that are simply awe-inspiring. Beyond the art, the designs and layouts bring it all together into a beautiful and cohesive whole. Visually, StarHenge delivers a is one of the best comics published in quite some time.
That said, however, there is a downside to such a scattershot approach. Sharp juggles so many different interests well, but it often comes at the expense of dialogue. The storytelling frequently turns to expository dumps that acquaint you with an ever-growing litany of jargon and lore. That’s a lot to take in all at once. But for the amount of ground this first issue was meant to cover, it makes sense. The scene is carefully prepared and we are ready for the real action to begin.
Globally, StarHenge succeeds by pure will of imagination. Sharp’s passion and enthusiasm are evident, palpable and contagious. You will definitely need your reflection in several parts, but the end result is worth it. It could be a masterpiece in the making.
Verdict: To buy
StarHenge tome 1 – The dragon and the boar
Writer, artist, letterer: Liam Sharp
Additional art: Matylda McCormack Sharp
Character font: David Gibbons
Editor: Picture Comics
PREMIERE OF THE MINI-SERIES
Revered creator LIAM SHARP goes wild in his visually stunning six-issue masterpiece, STARHENGE, BOOK ONE! A future Merlin travels to 5th-century Britain to stop monstrous time-traveling killer robots from stealing the universe of magic, and Amber Weaver’s animated present-day tale reveals how she’s drawn into a war through time !
Terminator meets The Green Knight in 30 gripping pages of history, setting the scene for this original epic inspired by the Arthurian sagas!
Harrison runs a comic book store by day and writes comics by night. You can find more of his writings at @stewart_bros