Writer, Illustrator, Letterer: Liam Sharp
Font: Dave Gibbons
Design: Liam Sharp
Logo: Liam Sharp and Christina McCormack
Covers: Liam Sharp
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: November 9th, 2022
The past, present, and future converge, setting the stage for Arthur’s final battle.
If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the Starhenge Book One: The Dragon and the Boar #5 Review.
STARHENGE is partly, in its way, a war story. But until now the conflict has felt distant–so distant that it seldom feels like the series is actually taking place in the shadow of the war with The Cast. That changes with STARHENGE BOOK ONE #5. Characters and events start converging, and for the first time it feels like WAR is upon us.
The biggest indication that something has changed in STARHENGE BOOK ONE #5 is Amber and Daryl awakening to who they are. Amber confirms what seemed to be the case at the end of the previous issue: the events in the woods are what gave her her perceptions of time. Daryl is likewise revealed to be more than what he appears. Sharp’s choice to push all of this into the penultimate issue is a good one.
By now we’ve gotten to know Amber and Daryl pretty well–by far the best of any significant character in the series. Even though they didn’t affect the events in the past in the first four issues, Amber and Daryl have effectively been our viewpoint characters. Even as Sharp has let questions about them linger, he has developed them very well. So even though neither Amber nor Daryl are ordinary people, they are still relatable thanks to the time we’ve spent with them. Introducing them to Arthur’s time actually serves to ground that story thread.
Moving Amber and Daryl to the past on its own doesn’t make the conflict feel more urgent, though. Sharp doesn’t drop them smack in the middle of a fight, after all. That big jolt comes from the death of the Ur-Queen (Merlin’s mother) in STARHENGE BOOK ONE #5’s opening pages. The event ripples through time, and Merlin and Amber both feel it. It’s the greatest example so far of Amber’s claim that the events in the past, present, and future are all happening at once, and it–more than the attack on Amber and Daryl, Arthur’s various campaigns, and the building of Stonehenge–brings the war front and center for the first time. It also provides a keen reminder that Merlin’s somewhat desperate journey began because The Cast was winning the war.
As with Amber and Daryl’s developments, depicting the Ur-Queen’s death at this time catapults the stakes. Given how exposition heavy most of STARHENGE’s issue are, switching back and forth between events on the scale of the Ur-Queen’s death would be a pacing nightmare. But building the story slowly and allowing the exposition all the breathing room it requires has let the reader get comfortable with that kind of a pace so when STARHENGE BOOK ONE #5 rolls up with its major story developments, the reader is shocked into heightened awareness.
STARHENGE BOOK ONE #5 is a case of the story working because of the art. I say that because Sharp’s visual presentation of the Ur-Queen’s death entirely carries its significance.
As I noted above, the Ur-Queen hasn’t been part of the story since the first issue. Indeed, we’ve barely seen the future setting since the first issue. So as readers we have no real connection to that world or character at this point. If Amber had simply informed us through the course of her usual narration that the Ur-Queen was dead we likely would take no notice. But Sharp devotes special attention to this sequence. He draws the Ur-Queen close up so we can see the fierceness and anger of her expression. She feels powerful.
Then Sharp juxtaposes that with a two page spread showing how small the Ur-Queen is compared to the Cast who is about to kill her. This is followed by nothing so mundane as a fight or execution but the fiery annihilation of the palace. In a way the Ur Queen feels weak. But Sharp follows this up with an explosion of color, radiating from an almost god-like humanoid as the Ur-Queen disperses aspects of herself through time and reminds us how powerful she was.
The art on these opening pages conveys a power that no amount of narration can. Amber’s report of what happened carries weight entirely because we got to see it in all its glory.
STARHENGE BOOK ONE #5 is the best issue since the first. There’s a sense that all the threads are coming together, and everything feels immediate. The opening pages dealing with the Ur-Queen are stunning–possibly the best artistic sequence in the series to this point. I am on the edge of my seat for what comes next.