A Future-Born Merlin Makes His Mark On The Dark Ages In ‘StarHenge’ #2 Review

by Olly MacNamee

Summary

Merlin has arrived from the future and made himself at home in 5th century Britain. Meanwhile, in the present our pagan-loving protagonist, Amber, gets an unexpected visit from her American boyfriend in Brighton. ‘StarHenge’ #2 mixes fiction with legends and adds a sprinkle of classic ‘Metal Hurlant cosmic art on tope of a good dose of brooding Dark Ages in this beautifully illustrated comic book.

Overall
10/10
10/10

After a very cosmic debut issue, StarHenge #2 is a more earthy affair with much of the narrative taking place in the mythical/historical past of England circa the 5th century. The time most scholars paint to as the birth of the Arthurian legend. A time when the Romans had fled back to their homeland in a futile attempt to hold back the fall of empire, leaving England to fend for itself against Anglo-Saxon invaders there were simply not prepared for. And a time when much of Britain returned to pagan ways. Pagan ways reflected in the contemporary character Amber and her interest in Wiccan Celtic beliefs and practices.

As discussed in my recent interview with writer/artist, Liam Sharp, this was a more brutal time. One many readers would not recognise as belonging to the Arthurian legend. But in this wilder, darker, untamed time, Sharp is in his element as an artist. A man who had never hidden his love for sword and sorcery and barbarian marauders. This is a mirky world, in tone and colour, contrasting well with the monochromatic scenes of contemporary England, as well catch up with Amber who is paid a surprise visits by her American beau, Daryl. In between all of this we have an effective flashback sequence as illustrated by Liam’s daughter, Matylda Sharp, no slouch in the art department herself. Her scant pages, presented as pages from a notebook, deliver a more cartoon-like, child-like quality totally suited to the chronicling of her early and tragic life. But it is the gnarly, masculine, muddy past that dominates this reader’s mind the most throughout the book. 

These are not the only style choices adopted in this book either. There is the use of ancient maps to better inform readers of the lay of the land in 5th century Britain. And we also have a more humorous style that Sharp adopts when recounting a local legend from the South East of England. One that leans more into the realms of illustrative storybook territory, with stunted characters depicted with Asterix-sized noses. It all adds to the engagement and entertainment this book has to offer up to readers. An intriguing story of past, present and future, with a myriad of artistic styles too.

This second issue is one that balances the ongoing adaption of the Arthurian story – with our futuristic Merlin seemingly having spent some time here in the past establishing himself – with the romance of Amber and Darryl in the present, with just a hint of the future too. In rooting this chapter in the very early days of the Arthurian story, and long before the once and future king is even present, Sharp is delivering a story that may not be too familiar to those not up to date with the legend of King Arthur, of the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth (the pseudo-historical 12th century chronicler of England’s past), but he is certainly daring fans to go and do their homework. Although, you don’t need to know anything about Monmouth’s works, but it helps. Maybe another one of my Arthurian Annotations is in order, perhaps? 

In using digital painting techniques first and foremost, Sharp delivers a comic book that is more art book that comic book, and a real treat to look over and read. While I love a good floppy copy, I could see this being an even better buy if collected in a hardback collection when this is all done and dusted. There aren’t too many books out there that look this sumptuous, that’s for sure. You may pick it up for the art, but be drawn in by the story.

StarHenge #2 is out Wednesday 10th August from Image Comic

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