It’s been almost a year since “Sacrifice” #3 was published, the mid-point of Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose’s self-published mini-series involving an epileptic man named Hector who has a seizure and ends up transported to the Aztec Empire. The wait is now over, with “Sacrifice” #4-6 scheduled for the first three months of 2013. As it turns out, it was definitely worth the wait.
One of the things I’ve appreciated about “Sacrifice” with each issue is that it would be simple to head down several different paths that we’ve seen before. The idea of someone from the present day trying to turn the Aztecs away from sacrifice and their eventual genocide from the Spanish is a familiar one, as is the idea of someone having some sort of brain-affecting disorder that makes them suddenly flash to a different time. But in the case of “Sacrifice,” nothing is quite that simple, and that’s part of its charm.
So as Hector tries to shift the Aztecs back towards the peaceful god Quetzalcoatl and away from the sacrifice-loving Huitzilopochtli, the turns that the story make are rather unexpected. When we’d last left “Sacrifice” at the end of the third issue, it looked like Hector was going to have to actually sacrifice someone. But as the time rapidly approaches on the first few pages of the series, you start to realize that there isn’t going to be an easy solution to this problem up anyone’s sleeve. Of course, that’s part of the thrust of “Sacrifice” with this issue in particular: there isn’t an easy solution. When Hector flashes back to learning about the Aztecs in school and arguing with the teacher that the Spanish victory wasn’t a matter of superior firepower, it’s a reminder that this isn’t cut-and-dried. With multiple factions warring against one another, it’s a precarious setting even before the Spanish arrive on the shores of Mexico.
I also found myself pleased with the way that Humphries has handled the flashbacks to Hector’s life in the present day. Early on it looked to be little more than an, “Is Hector imagining all of this while having a seizure?” frame, but by the time of “Sacrifice” #4 we’ve gotten so much more information out of these flashbacks that it feels like something much larger now. Hector’s own issues — both physical and mental — help us better understand why Hector has put all of his motivation into saving the Aztecs. Perhaps more importantly, you really care about Hector by the time of this issue. As “Sacrifice” #4 unfolded, I found myself genuinely hoping that he could defy the odds and succeed.
Rose’s art in “Sacrifice” intrigues me. It feels like someone who has found a way to merge Michael Allred’s basic character forms with Ladronn’s tight lines and strange angles. The end result is a comic that doesn’t look quite like anything else on the market. It especially helps how well Dalton works with colorist Pete Toms here. When Hector holds up the sacrifice on page 3, for example, the explosion of colors coming out of Hector’s arm and hand makes the patterns that Rose has drawn all the more hypnotizing. Rose and Toms have made the colors almost unfurl across the page, and it’s a moment that ends up with a lot of impact. Likewise, when the Emperor summons Hector during the meteor shower, the pink and purple hues mixed in with the black night sky would be an odd choice in other hands, but here it’s entrancing.
Having “Sacrifice” #4 released alongside Humphries’s new series this week (“Uncanny X-Force” #1) was a smart move; hopefully it will grab some additional attention. With two more issues to come, “Sacrifice” #4 has moved the series in a direction that makes me unsure of what would happen next or how it will possibly end. There’s only thing I know for certain: I want to find out. If you haven’t already, check it out.