The first time I saw the headlines about Dylan Sprouse’s collaboration with comic production company Heavy Metal, I wrote it off pretty quickly.
All it takes is a cursory glance at any actor’s IMDB page to see that every Hollywood somebody considers themselves a polymath. Sprouse’s dip into comic book writing seemed like a vanity project intended to add “writer” to his Wikipedia bio.
But I won’t lie to you.
SUNEATER exceeds expectations.
While Dylan Sprouse is the big name attached to the project, Diego Yapur is the real star here.
Yapur’s artwork is superb. It’s exactly the kind of dark and gritty aesthetic DC has been trying to emulate in its movies for years. Yapur lives here with his vermicelli lines and pervasive use of splatter.
Given that the story is set in ninth-century Norway, Yapur placed great emphasis on character image, rather than trying to zhuzh up stock setpieces. The character’s faces are hyper-detailed, executing gravity and desperation with relatable agony.
I’ve seen artists struggle to beautify historic settings and people, which only plays service to individual taste. Yapur abandons needless beautification, angling instead to create realistic facial structures and wrinkles to reflect antemodern standards. It’s subtle and utterly phenomenal.
The arc itself, a joint effort from Sprouse and Joe Harris, is also gritty and attractive.
Protagonist Kveldulf Bjalfisson sacrifices his leg to the god Wotan in order to gain the power necessary to defeat King Harald Fairhair and rescue his son. Wotan plays both sides of the conflict, granting Kveldulf his power but providing Harald Fairhair with enough warning to prepare his assassins.
The power Kveldulf receives is terrific, in the sense of both “of great intensity” and “causing terror.” I won’t spoil it for you here because I strongly believe this comic is worth experiencing yourself.
Some writers, like the inestimable Dan Watters, use syncopated language to communicate fractured people or contribute to an overarching sense of unease.
The way that Sprouse and Harris use language in SUNEATER is distracting, to be perfectly honest. I can appreciate playing with syntax; however, the characters of SUNEATER often deliver dialogue in Yoda-esque fashion.
“You be horn blower heard we hour past? Haven of Maere you’ve found …“
“Know not how came the here (sic). Beast tamer I am not.”
Old Norse is an inflected language, which relies on word formation rather than placement to tell you what its role is in the sentence.
So, while the above sentences look weird in English, they could have reasonably been structured exactly like that in Old Norse.
It’s a cute detail. But it’s nothing more than cute. I love parsing language so much that I have a degree in it, but having to parse through dialogue in nearly every frame is not conducive to an enjoyable comic experience.
It’s not enough to ruin the comic, whatsoever, but it is a needless distraction.
My final critique of SUNEATER is its tempo. The comic begins with Kveldulf’s sacrifice, but then nothing really happens until the final four pages of the issue.
There are moments of potential conflict or emotional wallop – he throws some mushrooms at thieves who then chase him, a kid asks about his family and he abruptly goes outside – but they’re plain rice crackers compared to the rich, buttery Town House crunch of the initial and final pages.
If you don’t want to hear me bitch about things unrelated to the actual comic, click here to skip to the final verdict.
I know we’re LiViNg In UnPrEcEdEnTeD tImEs, but these took a while to get out. When I first purchased the run, I paid more in shipping than I did for the actual comics. The website said the first issue would ship out in late July.
Mid-August rolled around, and I hadn’t received any updates, so I contacted Heavy Metal. They said the tracking info would be updated within a few days.
My first issue didn’t actually ship until September 2.
Yes, yes, yes, you can’t rush art, unprecedented times, patience is a virtue, of course, of course.
However, some kind of notice that the highly anticipated comic created by a well-known millionaire child star would be delayed more than a month would have been nice.
The Final Verdict
Sprouse said during the project’s early marketing blitz that the story was a highly personal reflection on his mother’s addictions and his family life. While SUNEATER #1 doesn’t explicitly address Kveldulf’s addictions, it does set up the potential for quite a tale.
Weighing the experience of SUNEATER #1 against the cost, it’s Barely Worth The Purchase.
However, if the second issue builds on the successes of the first and begins to pack more punch into its pages, it could be due for an upgrade.
For more suggestions on what to read, head on over to Geek Guy Buys: Read!