Artemsia, a stranger to her own family, finds herself flung into the even stranger lands of the Unseelie. Read on in Sparrowhawk #1 as Artemsia fights to return to her home and family.
Writer: Delilah S. Dawson
Artist: Matias Basla
Letters: Jim Campbell
Editor: Chris Rosa
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Release Date: October 3rd, 2018
Previously in Sparrowhawk: A young woman of color, illegitimate daughter to an English wastrel, is raised in a household in Northumberland where she is like a servant instead of a member of the family. When a changeling from the Unseelie realm of the fairies pulls her through the mirror and takes her place, Artemsia must embark on a journey to gain the power to return home and save her family. But at what cost to her immortal soul?
HOW THIS FAIRY GOT HER WINGS
Artemsia is the illegitimate child of a minor English noble who has fallen on hard times. Despite being his child, she is treated by his wife as a servant, spending her days tending to the needs of her half-sisters. When the eldest, Elizabeth dies, Artemsia is faced with an awful choice – marry her dead sister’s fiancé and secure the family’s fortune, or step aside and watch her beloved younger half-sister take her place at the altar.
As she grapples with that choice, Artemsia, a brave, witty woman trying to find her place in a world that rejects her because of her color, is suddenly pulled through the mirror by a changeling, who takes her form and her place. On the other side of the mirror, Artemsia becomes attached to a strange creature named Crispin, who for the price of a memory, agrees to aid her in her quest to return home. But as with everything in the realm of the Faerie, small prices have large costs.
Delilah Dawson has written a delightful script that mixes charm, melancholy and menace in equal measure. The masterstroke is the choice of lead character – Artemsia, illegitimate daughter, outsider in her own family, faces new perils as the ultimate outsider in the Unseelie world. She takes everything in her stride without being knocked off kilter, and is a perfect foil for the creature, Crispin, who agrees to help her. If you’ve got a daughter in need of a fictional heroine, then Artemsia is the perfect place to start.
Dawson manages to delineate the characters sharply. Artemsia’s stepmother, while not quite monstrous, is someone willing to use her children to secure the family fortunes. The youngest daughter, Charlotte, is the only member of the family who enjoys Artemsia’s company, and will no doubt play a larger part in the story as she grapples with the changeling who took Artemsia’s place.
On the other side of the mirror, Crispin, a sort of antlered gopher, offers himself up as a guide to Artemsia, as she begins to navigate the faerie world. His price, a seemingly innocuous memory, is more than Artemsia realizes at the time, and will no doubt have repercussions later on.
There is a battle at the end of the issue where Artemsia’s fire and pluck come to the fore as she faces off against a dark faerie intent on claiming her soul. In surviving, Artemsia gains her wings in a bloody fashion, leaving the reader with the fear that step by step, she will give up more of her humanity as she seeks to return home.
The other delight of Sparrowhawk #1 is the art by Matias Basla. As befits a story that starts in the lush English countryside and finishes in the otherworldly Unseelie realm, there is an organic feel to his inking that matches that tone of the book. The forest that Artemsia appears in is overgrown with vines, branches, and looming trees, picked out in shadow and darkness for added menace. Each of the characters has a unique look. The design on of the creature Artemsia battles is a mixture of satyr and demon, adding to the menacing atmosphere that tells you that while these may be fairies, Tinkerbell is definitely not the template.
BOTTOM LINE – FAIRY FROLICS
Sparrowhawk #1 is the first issue in a run of five. It sets up Artemsia’s domestic situation with economy, before moving to the baroque Unseelie realm with startling suddenness. Artemsia is the perfect heroine for the story – a mixture of pluck and vulnerability, embarking on a quest where she is at peril of losing her soul. Sparrowhawk #1 isn’t your kid’s fairy story, and promises plenty of dark action with a fun edge.