Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #93 by Drew Barth
A Sunless Legacy
What is a legacy? In monthly comics, it’s usually a character taking up the mantle of a hero that has passed on or passed out of the popular lexicon. This new character dons the mask, the famous name, and the responsibilities that entails. The heroics and mistakes of the past hang over this character’s head throughout their life. But this is an optional legacy—no one has to take up a mantle. Unless, of course, you’re family. Familial legacy is at the heart of The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver, Rebecca Kirby, and James Fenner. Hiram Hightower flew a craft into the sun and threw the world into darkness and his son, Joshua, has to contend with the legacy that has been carved out for him before he ever had a chance to say otherwise.
The Sacrifice of Darkness is an adaptation of Gay’s story “We Are the Sacrifice of Darkness” and with Oliver, Kirby, and Fenner in tow, she’s able to create a story that soars even higher than the original. This is a story that centers on family and legacy—what our parents leave behind for us and how we deal with it. The majority of this story centers on the Hightower family and how a legacy of working underground in their town’s mine and never seeing the sun or his family has left him wanting to show the rest of the world how he feels. So he flies a craft into the sun to extinguish it. But more importantly than that is what his son, Joshua, experiences as the son of the sun killer. He’s ostracized by his town and lives in isolation with his mother, until a girl, Claire, begins to talk to him.
This expansion of Gay’s original story is something that could really only be done within the medium of comics. Through Kirby’s art can we see the extent of Hiram Hightower’s legacy of sunlessness. And it is through her art as well that we see the five years Hiram had spent underground without seeing his family or the sun. Her lines resonate perfectly with Gay and Oliver’s words throughout. From the closeness of the Hightower family to the sparseness of a nearly sunless sky to streets crowed with artificial light, the original story can breathe so much more into its distances and silences.
As an adaptation, The Sacrifice of Darkness is one of the best the medium has produced this century. It takes its source material and expands upon it with the original author to create a new take, but the same feeling. As a graphic novel, it exists with the legacy of the original story over it and, at time, surpasses the original. Gay, Oliver, Kirby, and Fenner have created an evocative story of family and legacy between them that can only exist within comics and I hope this isn’t the last time they work together.
Get excited. Get the sun.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.