Writer: Delilah S. Dawson
Artist: Matias Basla
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Review by Melissa Prange
Artemesia, the illegitimate daughter of a Naval Captain, finds herself through the looking glass (literally) when the queen of the Unseelie court steals her away. Once little more than a servant in her own home, Artemesia will now be forced to fight to her way out of fairyland (also quite literally) if she hopes to save her family and her world from the queen’s clutches.
Sparrowhawk #1 reminds me strongly of both Amma Asante’s Belle and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. As a story set in Victorian England, it’s refreshing to find a biracial character as the lead in the comic. The diversity of the period is so often overlooked that its exciting to read anything where that oversight is corrected. The challenge of Artemesia’s life in Victorian England is also not shied away from. As the daughter of a slave and a formerly well-to-do captain, her relationship with her half-siblings and their mother is especially fraught.
Artemesia is the sort of heroine you can immediately root for. She’s clever and strong and has a whole lot of pent up rage. When dropped in fairyland, she adjusts a whole lot quicker than either Alice or Sarah, but that’s only because she’s not just some bored girl looking for adventure. Artemesia is a fighter and it’ll be cool to see her transform over the course of the series.
As for the fairyland in Sparrowhawk #1, it’s just as strange and grotesque as you would expect it to be. It might not look like Wonderland or the Labyrinth or Oz, but there are definite nods to those other worlds–especially that of Alice in Wonderland. The art by Matias Basla works well in creating a slightly creepy tone. It’s bright and slightly twisted a.k.a. perfect for this type of story. I also just generally adore the look of Artemesia and the creatures she meets on her journey.
Sparrowhawk #1 is a blast to read. It manages to feel like a successor to classic fairy tales without seeming like a ripoff or copy. If you wish there was a little more Wonderland in the world, this story is definitely for you.
The Verdict: Buy It.
With its twin settings of Victorian England and Alice in Wonderland-esque fairyland, Sparrowhawk #1 creates a fantastical world of manners and magic. Perfect for fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Labyrinth, Sparrowhawk introduces a wonderful heroine and adds excitement to the gaslamp fantasy genre by throwing a little violence into the mix. Definitely a must read if you love your fairy tales with a twist.