Read This Book- ‘The Sacrificers #1’ From Rick Remender and Max Fiumara

Before I dive into the review proper today, two things.

First, I am sorry I did not have an article last week. I got very ill on vacation and spent several days in bed feeling terrible. I’m definitely on the mend now and feeling much more like my old self, but yeah.

Secondly, I’d like to talk a little bit about the state of modern comics as I see it from my own, first-hand view, and from what I have gleaned from the people that I talk to who run various shops and comic related businesses. I promise this is important for the review, but I also understand if you skip to the good stuff.

So here’s the thing. Pre-covid I was a pretty voracious comic reader. My weekly pull would normally have between 20-30 titles, and my monthly budget for comics was, well, quite a bit more than I should have been spending. I was mostly reading indies, with a handful of DC and a few Star Wars comics thrown in for good measure.

I’d buy my stack each week, plow through them at home that same day, and then get excited for the following week when I would repeat that process.

Now I don’t want to say that Covid killed my love of comics, but it did give me a chance to reflect and refocus. During lockdown I had more free time than I had had at any other time, which is probably the case for a lot of people. I used that free time to catch up on my comics that I had started falling behind on reading, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to care less and less. I stopped picking up as many books, stopped reading them as quickly, and generally stopped caring about what new releases were coming out each month.

The issue, and this is something I have spoken about before, is that when you are reading as many books as I am back to back each week, the cracks really begin to appear. Add into that an M.A. in English Lit and your perceptions of the flaws are much, much greater. The cyclical nature of the story telling, the stretching things out to make a trade, the obvious this-is-just-a-movie-pitch-disguised-as-a-comic, all of it hurt my love of the genre, and in many ways lead me to shift my reading patterns and pick up other things like manga.

And this is not an uncommon story. I have spoken to many people who have not only stopped reading weekly books, due to both cost and lack of interest, but also many who have shifted to things like manga for the simple fact that why would I pay $5 for a single issue of a comic that might not even be good and definitely isn’t going anywhere when, for $10, I can get a complete first volume of a manga, controlled by a single author who has a plan and an end point and a single message to share?

I, like many others, crave bold storytelling. I need actual character development. I yearn for growth and progress, and a world where all the toys are not just shoved violently back in the box so that the next person can play with them. One of the reasons I am so in love with DC’s Elseworlds and Black Label lines is that they can do whatever they want and even if the story is terrible, at least it is something different.

So what does this mean? Well first off, it means that I have become a lot more selective about my weekly pull, dropping it down to usually less that 5 titles a week now. It also means that I am working on really refocusing my reviews for people like me, people who are tired of the inability of modern comic writers and studios to break out of the traditional mold. I’m going to try much harder to celebrate those creatives who embrace the genre fully, and who really explore and focus on what can be done with modern comics.

If you want something different, something new, something exciting, well then buckle up because that’s what I’m going to do!

All that being said, let’s dive into this week’s review of a book that I feel is doing everything right and more, with Image Comics’ The Sacrificers #1 from writer Rick Remender and artist Max Fumaria.

Here’s the blurb:

Tomorrow is a harmonious paradise thanks to five families who make everything perfect…for the price of one child per household. Now, as that bill comes due, a son expected to give everything for a family that never loved him and an affluent daughter determined to destroy utopia must unite to end one generation’s unnaturally protracted reign.

New York Times-bestselling writer RICK REMENDER (LOW, DEADLY CLASS, Uncanny X-Force) joins forces with superstar MAX FIUMARA (Amazing Spider-Man, FOUR EYES, Lucifer) to take you through the dark science fiction world of THE SACRIFICERS!

It’s kind of hard to put into words why this first issue of The Sacrificers is so good, and why it sparked such a rant from me at the beginning of this article, but since words are my business, I’ll give it my best shot.

Right off the bat, this is a world where, even though we are only given the barest of glimpses, you can already see the edges of a rich lore that will soon be uncovered. It reminds me a bit of the latest Zelda game (which I have sunk far too many hours into so far) in that on the surface it would be easy to see this as another coming of age, heroes journey dark sci-fi piece, but the design of the world, the characters, the language used, all of draws you in and intrigues you the more you think about what it all means.

Sacrificers begins (spoilers from here on) with a family of bird people eating dinner. Their appearances aside, it appears to be a fairly typical scene straight out of Steinbeck, and I love that. Changing the expectations, playing with the genre, sci-fi that starts on an alien farm, all of it just works for me.

We quickly learn that all is not well on this farm, with one of the children, the oldest and largest, being forced to live outdoors in the barn, beaten and abused while the other children are treated with care and affection. The reason, we learn, is because that child is the sacrifice, given to the leaders of the planet as part of the ritual that will, supposedly, maintain the planet’s peace and harmony.

His father doesn’t abuse him because he hates him, he does it to convince himself that he doesn’t love his son or want him to stay, and so he is awful to him to make having to give him up later easier on everyone (Further spoiler: it doesn’t work).

Meanwhile, we meet the leader of this world, a man of fire and lava who, despite being a creature of seemingly awesome power, has to deal with a jealous mistress and a defiant daughter, again, moments of familiarity in a world so strange just hit me so hard. Perhaps it’s my love for shows like Firefly, where the insane sci-fi nature of the world was so often put into contrast with scenes of adoptive family life on a space ship, but for whatever reason the humanity of these aliens just really rang true to me.

Rick Remender’s writing on The Sacrificers is brilliant, giving a reality and humanity this world so desperately requires to be relatable. His characters are not exposition machines, spouting off long descriptions of things that to people inside the world would seem strange and unnecessary, and to people outside this world as long and drawn out word salad that felt unnatural. That’s a hard line to walk in sci-fi and fantasy, with too many writers just forcing characters to exposition dump in order to catch the audience up. I much prefer a world where we are a fly on the wall, figuring our way through as we go, and the fact that Remender trusts his audience enough to figure things out is a sign that this book is headed in the right direction.

And, of course, I would be remiss to not bring up the art of this comic. I’ve been a fan of Max Fiumara since his work on Lucifer, and so it was great to see him back on this book. Capturing the feel of a dystopian utopia is not an easy thing to do, but so far Fiumara has managed to pull it off brilliantly. A book like this needs the art to do the heavy lifting of helping the storytelling, and it is wonderful to see a story where the art isn’t just a backdrop.

There was a time recently where The Incredible Hulk beat Batman in sales. You can chalk that up to Tom King’s writing, and that certainly played a role, but what was really happening was that they took a risk on a character and redefined him in a way that had not been done before, and it captured people’s interests and imaginations, and the results were not on a celebrated run, but an increase in sales. Not every risk will always pay off, but when they do it is spectacular. Personally, I would rather take a risk to produce brilliance, then make on quick buck on mediocrity, but I don’t have shareholders, so what do I know?

The Sacrificers is a risk, but it is a risk that is worth it.

Alright folks, that’s enough from me this week. Next week I’ll be attending the Really Cool Comic Con in Flint, MI, so look forward to my review of that con next week! Until then, Stay Safe!

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