If you go to Comic-Con, in San Diego, you are likely to notice other forces at play besides comics and pop culture: the Pacific Ocean, the United States Navy, and the nation of Mexico. Writer Sam Humphries, with artist Dalton Rose, taps into the last on this list with great results in his self-published comics series, “Sacrifice.” Humphries has gone on to launch an impressive career (Ultimates, Uncanny X-Force, Our Love is Real). And now what started it all, “Sacrifice,” has been collected into a gorgeous hardcover published by Dark Horse Comics. The book will be released on August 21 in comics shops, and on September 2 in bookstores.
When you’re a teen who just wants to hide from the San Diego sun, curl up with a Joy Division song, and then suddenly finds himself thrust back some 700 years into the age of the Aztecs, there is no time to hesitate about anything. Sam Humphries is the John Hughes of comics. He is totally in tune with youth angst. He has taken Hector’s rage, his struggle with epilepsy, with fitting into high school, with debilitating anxiety, and he’s shouldered him with the fate of the Aztecs. Humphries doesn’t provide any easy answers. Hector is not going to get away with a simple life lesson.
Check out that front cover art and the art throughout. Dalton Rose is right in step with this over-the-top tale. The driving force is Hector. As Rose describes in the notes at the end of the book, Hector is “a nice cocktail of angst, insecurity, and courage.” Much like the other characters, and even the background to some extent, Hector is rendered in energetic, sharp lines in keeping with the story’s high energy. Rose also praises another character, Itzcoatl, a foil to Hector, who Rose keeps mysterious under his costume. And then there is Malin, a hell on wheels, who is the driving force behind, and in front, of Hector. These are all bold, yet very vulnerable, characters trapped by, but fighting against, forces leading to a very real end to the Aztec nation.
“Sacrifice” is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is all the history it so neatly packs into this story. It cleverly handles the classic time travel theme of attempting to alter fixed points in time. Are some things simply unalterable? Hector struggles with his role, his fate, among the Aztecs. At first, he simply wants to go home. Hey, he’s just a kid who somehow fell through a fast food parking lot and is now just way over his head. It is the beautiful young princess/warrior, Malin, who talks some sense into him. Before long, Hector finds himself totally immersed in the Aztec culture. In the end, should he even try to alter history and attempt to have the Aztecs overpower their Spanish invaders?
Humphries and Rose do a great job of taking a story with a lot of fantasy and science fiction elements and keeping it both quirky and grounded. We know that Hector has issues he’s dealing with back in the present day. What we also know is that Hector is a Mexican-American. He does struggle with that dual identity with one foot in each culture and no balance. And we also know that Hector’s family lived near the Black Mountain, which plays a significant role in Aztec history. Not only that, Hector’s father was fascinated with Aztec folklore and regularly recited stories to young Hector about gods, warriors, and Spanish invaders. Is it any wonder then that, when Hector’s life began to crumble, he sought higher ground, all the way up to Aztec temples?
“Sacrifice” gained much praise as a self-published comic series. For those who are already familiar with Sam Humphries and the work he is capable of (a tribute to Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock was a turning point, quirky, but a point on a significant turn, nonetheless!), well, it just makes complete and utter sense to celebrate the collected “Sacrifice.” So, keep in mind, the book will be released on August 21 in comics shops, and on September 2 in bookstores. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics for more details here. And plan to order you copy from Things From Another World here.