*Solstice — Recommended

Solstice started life almost a decade ago as a never-finished miniseries. Now, it’s a still-timely graphic novel about the excesses men, fearing death, go to to survive.

Steven T. Seagle writes and Justin Norman draws the story of Hugh Waterhouse. Hugh’s father is a millionaire with a brain tumor, and he takes his son on a quest for the Fountain of Youth. His accomplishments, his money, his power, and his family aren’t enough for him; instead of being remembered, he wants to be immortal by not dying.

Dad is the kind of overwhelming, selfish steamroller who’d have the hubris to think that he can find a way to beat death when no one else has. His money controls others, and he’ll sacrifice anything to get what he wants. That includes his son, who at one point becomes an object to be traded in a shocking bargain made by his father. He’s not a villain, doing bad things so he can evilly chuckle afterwards. He thinks what he’s doing is right and even admirable.

Seagle makes gutsy choices throughout. The book opens with Hugh trying to save his father from falling to his death over a waterfall. He fails. The title refers to the day of that action, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Seagle plays with this setting throughout the book’s captions, contrasting it with Dad’s shortest day in a dark joke about death.

Hugh’s narration points out significant philosophical questions, but they’re also seasoning for an exciting quest story. His internal monologue shows the reader how many lies he’s had to tell himself to survive his father’s treatment. Before the final expedition to Chile, Hugh and his father explored Canada and Siberia, each time causing death and destruction to others without concern.

Hugh’s always made himself subservient to his father’s wants; he’s a tortured adolescent with no need to grow up. Dad says he wants a man for a son while undercutting him at every turn. Hugh’s only outlet is seething resentment, a mental disconnect from reality that in its own way makes him his father’s son.

Norman’s work is astounding, a detailed realism with emotional impact. It seems from the interview that concludes the book that he doesn’t do comics any more, which is a real loss to the field. Solstice explores the father/son dynamic that fuels so many comics (especially those in the superhero genre) in a surprisingly original way.

Steven T. Seagle is part of the Man of Action website. More information can be found at the publisher’s website or in this interview with Seagle.

Update: I’m told that Norman will continue doing comics — he’s the artist on Richard Starkings’ upcoming series Elephantmen.

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6 Responses to “*Solstice — Recommended”

  1. Ed Says:

    Johanna, That books sounds very interesting. It reminds of the epic Gilgamesh, who also seeks to avoid death. I have to read it and compare the two.

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] I wish more of my reviewing experiences could go like it did for Solstice. Here’s many of the things that went right: [...]

  3. Mark Says:

    just saw the update.

    I’m soooo looking forward to Elephantmen.

    I’ve read the three Hipflask issues that were published so far and they are briliant (the third one couldn’t quite catch up with the first two storywise, but it’s still good stuff. The art is really amazing).
    It’s really a shame that there is only one issue every one or two years. It makes it really hard to actually follow the series. That’s why I’m having high hopes for the monthly Elephantmen. Especially since Norman’s art in the samples looks like he will be a very capable replacement for Ladronn (the original Hipflask artist).

    Another reason to look into Solstice, I guess.

  4. Francisco Bustamante Says:

    Solstice is an amazing book, the writing was great and the art was fantastic.
    Elephantmen is now in it’s eleventh issue and is one of those books that should be on everyones must read list but is sorely under rated and under read. Norman’s art is astounding and he does it all, from pencils to inks and coloring. You owe it to yourself to give Elephantmen a try, you wont be disappointed. Starkings writing is superb and the meshing of his writing with Norman’s fantastic art will have you anxiously awaiting for the next issue.

  5. Johanna Says:

    I’ve tried Elephantmen, but I found it too crowded and hard to read.

  6. Richard Starkings Says:

    Johanna: Check out issues #18, 19 and 20 with art by Marian Churchland.

    Rich!

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