Sam Humphries’ ‘Sacrifice’ is a deeply personal adventure through time. It is a magnificent, imaginative look at history, mental illness, and theism. As expansive as it is ambitious, ‘Sacrifice’ boldly offers a story of generation y unlike anything else out there. You’ll be riveted, confused, and engaged all at once. It’s a thrilling dive into past all brought to life with Dalton Rose’s fantastic style.
“Sacrifice” is incredibly ambitious. A story so deeply routed in history, love, and personal loss that it is hard not to fall for. If the Joy Division references don’t get you, there’s still the deep characters, rich history, or amazing art. While the ambition does make for an incredible book, it does cause the book to falter in a few moments. Language is heavy, and world building could have been done with a little more ease. The book remains to be one of the most unique things I’ve ever read.
Hector is a hopeless wanderer. Lost in his love for things, he has ambition but no direction. He’s just been released from the hospital. Humphries introduces us to him when he is weak, exposed, and unsure of himself. We feel this, especially as we dive into the past through an epileptic episode in the middle of a fast food parking lot.
From here Humphries throws us head first into the past. The visual style hits full stride. Hector tumbles down into no man’s land, and no matter how he tries to let it out none of the Aztecs believe where he’s from. They are convinced he is a saintly hero sent there to save them. Humphries uses this moment to engage us in real pieces of history. We are lost with Hector as we tumble into this world. The names, land, and customs are foreign bordering on alien. Until we see a head tumbling down the stairs of a ziggurat, then the terrifying nature of this world comes rushing back.
Hector’s overwhelming love for music translates beautifully to the page. From the opening moment reciting Joy Division lyrics, to later drawing the Unknown Pleasures album art onto his chest, Humphries uses this musical passion to imbue Hector with relatable qualities. Even more so, Hector adopts this persona that represents who he is and where he’s from. The Aztecs latch on to this. Like any amazing time traveler, he uses his love of something else to empower the people that look up to him.
“Sacrifice” prides itself on historical accuracy. It adheres to the history of the area with a wonderful pseudo reality feel. You can never be sure if what you are reading is truly reality, or a total falsehood created by Hector’s fragile mental state. In the end though, it all doesn’t matter. The story remains the same in either world. Hector’s journey of self-discovery, accepting his past, and accepting his new fate is thought provoking, irresistible, and deeper than most wells.
The attention to epilepsy, and mental illness propel this story into the stratosphere. These are important issues being explored. Humphries uses Hector to explore them intimately and truthfully. By the end of the story you’ll feel the weight of Hector’s choice, and you’ll have a better understanding of what it’s like to live in a fractured mind. It’s not always easy to read, but it needs to be experienced.
The book steeps itself so deeply in a love for Aztec history that some pages and plot points come across as incomprehensible. A second reading may be required for those fully invested in the Aztec Gods storyline. Names, places, and allegiances are hard to follow. Humphries knows history, and isn’t afraid to throw the reader head first into the language and customs of the time.
Readers may find themselves identifying with Hector’s confusion and worry even more with these elements at play. Yet, the one thing that is sure to put them at ease is the astounding work done by Dalton Rose.
Rose’s work here is sprawling, epic, and other worldly. When Hector and his new friends arrive at Tenochtitlan (Phew…) for the first time, the sprawling splash page shows you the power of his work. The setting sun, the golden bridge, and the vast expanse of the empire, this is jaw dropping stuff. The half page panel of Hector kneeling before the Emperor makes you feel small, and inconsequential like you’re about to be squashed.
The real world is decidedly bland and boring. Long shots of everyday objects with Hector resting in the middle, show he’s lost control. Hector is overwhelmed by the mediocrity of the real world and Rose’s art makes sure to remind you.
Finally, Rose goes fully insane when he shows Hector’s dream state. The twirling panels are soaked in color and lines. We are pulled along Rose’s wonderful stream of consciousness with each of these. The wilds lines hit the page like a roaring sea, the characters look to be afloat within this madness. It works wonders to illustrate how unsettling these moments are. The colors by Pete Toms here are truly something else. The bright reds, purples, yellows, and blues give a psychedelic feeling that amps up the unsettling nature of this state.
“Sacrifice” is a product of love, struggle, and escape. This is a unique story that aims to teach us about the art of giving part of yourself away. Humphries uses real world experiences to create a fantastic narrative that never feels completely out of touch. While some elements are nearly impregnable, the others are deeply satisfying. You’ll never truly be sure what you are reading, and the context of the world you are in, but can we ever be sure? Isn’t reality just a subjective experience anyway?