Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Sacrifice Review (Sam Humphries, Dalton Rose)

Hector is an epileptic who checks himself out of a psychiatric hospital and has a seizure in a fast food parking lot. Suddenly he’s transported 500 years into the past to the time of the Aztecs, just before Cortes arrives to begin their extermination. Hector decides he will save the Aztecs! 

I should’ve taken heed from the Brad “Identity Crisis” Meltzer blurb on the cover that Sacrifice was going to be bad. Actually I’ve read Sam Humphries’ work before on Uncanny X-Force over at Marvel and it was really terrible. Sometimes writers’ creator-owned work is better than their work-for-hire… but not Humphries.

So Hector somehow travels through time and space to go back to the Aztecs before they’re wiped out. There’s no real ambiguity about this - Hector immediately takes it as read that this is really happening, that his epilepsy has actually done this and he can save them. 

Hector is a Mexican-American who can speak Spanish and English. But when he’s transported back in time, he can somehow instantly speak (quick google) Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs? Also the Aztecs speak in a modern-day vernacular. Keep glossing over these things… 

What is Hector’s plan to save the Aztecs? If he knows his history like he claims, he’ll know the three main causes for the fall of the Aztec empire were disease, other native civilisations joining the European forces against them, and technology. What was Hector’s plan to resist smallpox? If he was a doctor, he might stand a chance at saving them - he’d have to somehow synthesize millions of smallpox vaccines, but that’s a better chance than nothing. 

If he knew how to make guns or explosives he might be able to prepare them in advance to make them more formidable to the Europeans. No, Hector instead tells them about Joy Division. He’s a guy with epilepsy who enjoys music from a band whose frontman also had epilepsy and hung himself. Great. Real useful! What was your plan again!?

The whole “saving the Aztecs” thing is actually more of a background plot. Most of the book is taken up with Hector trying to get them to stop human sacrifice and then sort out some internal power plays for some guy to take power or something. One of Humphries’ biggest flaws as a writer is his story structuring is incredibly weak and unfocused. The other is an inability in creating distinctive characters. 

We know who Hector is because he’s our protagonist but the other characters? Who knows. One guy wants power from another guy, there’s some other guy who’s a rebel or something, there’s a strong female protagonist who’s also a rebel, and there’s a priest guy or something. It doesn’t help that artist Dalton Rose’s character designs are pretty much the same for every male. Nor that their names are ridiculously complex to follow: Huitzilopochtli, Tlahuicole, Tlacamictiliztli. What do those names sound like in your head? To me it’s just white noise! 

Rose’s art isn’t bad actually. It’s eye-catching, it’s colourful, and I liked it for the most part. I hope the guy gets more work, like Humphries has, off the back of this. The art isn’t a reason to seek out the comic but it’s more of a saving grace if you do pick it up.

Sacrifice is a very boring, completely un-engaging and often perplexing read about nothing much at all. Like human sacrifice, this comic is a bloody mess!


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