Last summer I was privileged to accidentally discover a new comic book company, SKY ARK. They were in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for their second-ever published comic, “Hiraeth”, and I was able to do an interview with co-founder Ryan Swanson and Creative Writer Brent Hodges (which you can find right here on the blog). It was incredibly fun talking with these passionate comics collectors and getting the scoop on their emerging indie comic book company. Since then they’ve changed their company name to Behemoth Comics, and frankly so much else has happened with this amazing company that I’m doing another interview to fully cover everything. But I promise that we will catch up with them very soon!
Today I’m reviewing “Hiraeth #1”. Created and written by Brent Hodges and illustrated by Peter Cacho, Hiraeth takes place on Soulero, “a world mired in bloodshed and magic” where “connected dreamers will be tested beyond their limits”. You have my full attention.
The cover features spear-wielding soldiers wearing armor, one of who is mounted on horseback and carries a sword. A few of the men’s faces show uncertainty, and if you look carefully you’ll see long, untamed blonde hair glinting behind the shield of a particularly ferocious figure. Hiraeth is not here to cater to medieval world-building where women are viewed (and equipped) as either childbearing drudges or pretty, powerless waifs. This soldier’s armor is carefully crafted and shaped for her. She is here with intent.
A few pages later you see a disconcertingly mild yellow page titled, “CHAPTER ONE- A POUND OF FLESH”. A tiny, exquisitely detailed bird sits on a branch below. If this were not foreboding enough of impending disaster, the next few pages feature starlight clothed in color, chased by darkness. This is where the team at Behemoth begins to truly beguile us.
Dark versus light.
The powerful versus the powerless.
Necessity versus expectation.
The following pages pass quickly, nearly too quickly for thought. Peter Cacho’s illustrations- finely detailed and elegant- are particularly striking, the characters’ hair and clothing standing out amidst a sea of gentle brown landscape, steely armor, impossibly blue sky. My particular favorite- without giving too much away- is the same image you can find on a t-shirt in Behemoth’s online store: Emperor Leorin’s stern face surrounded by an absolute sea of beard and hair. This guy looks like Father Christmas got promoted, bulked up, and cut his carbs, y’all.
And let us not forget colorist Gustavo Mendes, who treats a blank brick wall, the fine folds of a cloak, and a spreading blood puddle with equal care and precision. The depth of color in a plain bronze shield simply astounds me. He also carefully avoids using the color red, except in order to draw the readers’ attention to significant plot points.
Brent Hodges’ dialogue, while at times edging a bit towards overwrought, is nevertheless every bit as poignant as one would expect from a scene in one of the sappier Michael Bay movies.
I’m kidding! Put away the pitchforks!
Hodges handles his dialogue skillfully and with sensitivity, and is able to truly bring a hardworking and close-knit family to life. Their small village is plagued by lack of opportunity, absent fathers, and their own share of what is apparently kingdom-wide corruption, but Hodges writes an affectionate father’s nickname for his daughter, sisters trading insults as quick as breath, and someone gasping in pain with enviable ease. Not to mention having to write a magical and unseen entity as something interesting enough to catch and then hold an audience’s interest! And I can’t even touch on the villain- where the illustration, coloring, and writing form a perfect triumvirate of rabid evil- who may be the best antagonist I’ve read in a very long time.
Hiraeth is not to be missed. You can find digital and physical copies on their website, https://behemothcomics.us/, along with a link to subscribe to their newsletter, new Kickstarter campaign updates, glimpses of upcoming content, links to their social media accounts, and an online store featuring custom soundtracks, posters, and even clothing!
“Our mission is to bring together talented writers and artists to create new dynamic teams whose comics can relate to readers young and old.”- Ryan Swanson, Behemoth Comics co-founder.
As always, thank you for reading. Stay tuned for more excitement!
~ Shiera Carter ~