Sunstone vol. 5 (Top Cow/Image)
Writer/Artist: Stjepan Sejic
A review by Bob Reyer
Before I launch into my actual essay, let me say at the outset that this was at once the easiest and the most difficult review that I’ve ever had to write! Easiest, because quite simply, it’s a masterpiece; Stjepan Sejic has crafted a finale for one of modern comics’ most unique series in a way that amplifies and enlightens all that came previously whilst also bringing new and surprising elements to the fore, so both defining and defying readers’ expectations. Most difficult, as I’m unsure as to how to avoid spoiling those things that you should experience for yourself without my intruding on the literally dozens of moments that will have your emotions running high. ( If you don’t want to read even vague allusions to events in volumes 4 & 5 of Sunstone, turn away now, as despite my best efforts, there might be *spoilers ahead*!)
When Mr. Sejic and his wife Linda appeared on our podcast , he talked about how “Chapter 5 will be about repairing what was broken”, and in the case of the relationship between Lisa Williams and Allison Carter, the ending to the fourth volume of Sunstone portrayed a rift having formed that might be beyond repair. As we begin this chapter, the intermingling of Lisa’s fantasy fiction with the hard facts of building a real-world romance has not gone as she expected, hence her musing “I always thought of jealousy as the projection of one’s own insecurities, and that day, mine was in IMAX.” As both Lisa and Ally had been reluctant to communicate their inner-most feelings to each other, the uncertainty surrounding “the next step” has laid the brick-work for a trail of broken hearts.
The communication and trust that lies at the heart of the BDSM role-play which sparked the bond between Ally and Lisa has broken down (and as we discussed with Linda & Stjepan, serves to highlight how vital those attributes are to any interpersonal relationship), and how to begin to re-establish those ties has both our protagonists in quite a muddle. The combination of words and images set down by Mr. Sejic to illustrate these efforts is simply stunning, with the usual imaginative page layouts and ultra-expressive faces, all complimented by some of the most insightful character work in comics, as in this amazing–and heart-wrenching–two-page spread:
As the friendship between Lisa and Ally began through her on-line fiction, Lisa decides that writing a series documenting their time together is the best way to reconnect, to lay bare their feelings for each other, and hopefully rekindle the fading flame, so she sets to work on five stories: “My Jealousy”, “My Appreciation”, “My Friendship”, “My Mistress”, and….nope, that last one you have to find for yourself, sorry!
Will this desperate gambit pay off? Is there a future for Lisa and Ally after the mess they’ve made of things? Can they span the yawning gulf between them? Even if we know how this turns out, having read the entire series (although it’s easy to get caught in the drama and forget for a second!), perhaps it’s best if I let Ms. Lisa Williams tell it herself: “Petals and puzzles and pages of stories–all the strange pieces of the bridge we built together. That night, that New Year’s Eve, I gathered my courage and journeyed across it…finally.”
What happens next? You’re on your own from here, Gentle Reader, but this is a certainty from where I sit; Stjepan Sejic’s Sunstone has, across five volumes, been one of the most surprising and rewarding comic series I’ve read in many years, filled to the brim with gorgeous images, beautiful words, in-depth characterization, and a wry sense of humour, with two agency-filled leads that despite their reticence to display it to each other, show us their hearts in every panel.
VERDICT: A “Must Buy” You fans, I know that you’ve more than likely devoured Sunstone vol. 5 already–twice! For everyone else, if our volumes of praise for this wonderfully funny, romantic, and sensual series haven’t gotten you on board yet, perhaps the monumental conclusion of this part of the Sunstone saga will?
EXTRAS: Not a spoiler, but there are quite a few nods to the story coming ahead in Mr. Sejic’s Mercy, which is set in the “Sunstone Universe”, and also some “Easter Eggs” for Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain, whose second trade volume will be out in March!