Written by Dylan Sprouse with Joe Harris
Illustrated by Diego Yapur
Colored by D.C. Alonso
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Original Character Designs by Rael Lyra
Published by Heavy Metal and Diga Studios
In Sun Eater: Act One, readers are introduced to Kveldulf Bjalfisson, also known as Garm Goldwolf. Even if you think you know this story, the lycanthrope is emerging onto the comic page from Norse Mythology with gory style, thanks to some stellar character design and a narrative that deftly binds the personal to the historical for a singular story that will surely stick with you.
Not either; but rather, BOTH
Here’s the thing about lycanthropy stories: they can either be used to emphasize the division between the two “personas,” or they can be used to collapse the binary and underscore that man and wolf are not so different.
Sun Eater is decidedly the latter.
But the real trick Sun Eater performs is that by the final pages, one realizes that in spite of the fact that Bjalfisson has indeed turned himself into a (quite literal) monster, that may have been his only choice: how else could he hope to rise to the level of power enjoyed by King Harald Fairhair?
Fairhair has stolen Bjalfisson’s son and added him to his ranks of adopted children: a “found family” that actually serves Fairhair’s political agenda – unifying his kingdom under the single word “Norway.” As such, Bjalfisson makes good thematic sense as an antagonist to King Fairhair – who better to confront homogenization than a lycanthrope?
This theme carries through to every aspect of the book. For one, there’s the fact that the story is told not just through sequential narrative chapters, but through short prose stories, as well. These integrated prose pieces often directly pick up elements from the sequential narrative chapters and develop them in interesting, singular ways.
A perfect example is the way the hunters called by King Fairhair to hunt down the now-monstrous Bjalfisson are introduced on the final page of the first comic chapter. Soon afterwards, the second chapter opens with a short prose story that details the meeting between the King and his five hunters. The content of the conversation is effectively conveyed via prose, but the images of the hunters loom large in the mind’s eye of the reader, having been introduced visually just a few pages before.
Throughout Act One, the sequential narrative and prose story elements work in tandem, with one being inextricable from the other. And there’s another part of Sun Eater that’s intertwined, as well: the personal with the mythological.
As Sun Eater writer Sprouse told The Beat in an interview last year, this is a deeply personal story for him. An integral aspect of Bjalfisson’s character is his addiction to mushrooms, and Sprouse explained to The Beat that “Kveldulf is actually based [his] my mother and her own struggles with drug addiction.”
In other words, Sun Eater is an intensely personal story that explores themes like how addiction in a parent affects the next generation. However, Norse mythology has been seamlessly grafted to this deeply intimate story, creating something that is not quite either mythology or personal history, but rather, both.
With additional art by Simone Bianchi, Brian Stelfreeze, and Carlo Magno, Sun Eater: Act One is a unique and fantastic tale that’s aesthetically pleasing from the first page to the last. Featuring a narrative that keeps you guessing (by way of seriously thematic development rather than cheap thrills), this dark tale is worth investigating for yourself.
Sun Eater: Act One is available at a local comic shop or public library near you.