Starhenge is a Sci-Fi fantasy story that comes with no artistic half-measures from Liam Sharp and publisher Image comics. If you crave Arthurian Lore mixed in with Science fiction, all served up in a surrealistic vessel, this book is the right potion to get your fix.
Liam Sharp employs a structure where we are being told stories across several time periods. Typically, I do not enjoy this if it is done to add suspense synthetically or has no bearings on the story since it can come off as gimmicky. But in this case, it fits the story and did not bother me. Imagine something like Cloud Atlas or The Fountain, where the stories across the timelines parallel each other.
In the distant future, we have to fight AI beings across several realms and the only group who could, a sort of futuristic knights, used a mix of might and magic. In the past, a murder was committed. In another time period, a college football player discusses Wicca and other myths with his girlfriend, who has an interest in the occult. All of these stories intertwine and overlay. Saying anything more about the story would give away too much and wouldn’t do it justice as much as reading the story itself. This, I feel, is the comic book equivalent of “You have to watch it in theaters.” Which is to say, the best way to experience this would be to read the comic.
The art is ethereal and unlike anything on the shelves right now. Every single thing has texture. Liam Sharp pulls no punches in the art department and the depictions of everything, from the fantastical to the ultra-futuristic, look exquisite. You have to really soak the art in before you let yourself read the words. Some pages are so surreal that I had to look carefully to grasp and interpret what I am looking at, which is not a deterrent but instead is a curious experiment. This is not a run-of-the-mill fast-read comic where the art is there to convey the action as quickly as possible so that the reader can move on to the next word balloon. Instead, this draws you in, keeps you “in the moment,” and makes you appreciate the scene and the setting.
There are parts where I feel the writing could have been sharper, and all of that, has to do with voice and narration. Most of the story is in the form of narration or one character telling another what is going on. That sort of exposition can become laborious, especially when the subjects are outlandish fantasy or science fiction. However, I will give this story the benefit of the doubt that, past this issue, now that most of the groundwork has been laid and the primary characters have been introduced, the rest of the story will not repeat this.
The second issue I have is that much of the narration is done in a voice that is very non-serious and told in a breathless cadence, which makes sense since the narrator is teenage Amber, who is one of the primary characters of the story. However, this does great disservice to the very space opera-like setting and takes away from the gravitas of it all. The middle of the issue is perhaps the weakest, in my opinion, and some dialogue there comes off as very forced. That said, the last part of the story has a great twist that brings everything around.
If you have been hankering for a story that is very much like a Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal story, this is it. The art is a triumph, with something every art aficionado would want to collect, and every artist would look for inspiration, with a story setup full of potential.