Sacred Six, previously styled as sacredsix, is a brand new spinoff of Christopher Priest's Vampirella run. As someone who has never read a Vampirella comic before but enjoys Priest's writing, Sacred Six seemed like it would make sense as an entry point. It boasts an enviable art team, with Gabriel Ibarra supplying the main artwork and Jae Lee, whose art on Stephen King's The Dark Tower graphic novels still haunts me to this day, illustrating the prologue. A lengthy introductory paragraph gives a summary of what we need to know before reading, which we'll get into below, but first: does Sacred Six #1 work for someone who hasn't followed Vampirella?
Kind of. The issue is structured in short vignettes that introduce crucial characters, starting with Jordan and Malik, two kids walking home from school. This, the first sequence in the book, is one of the most interesting, as Malik tells Jordan a story about a Pharoah — "a teenage girl-king" from Thebes, Egypt 1458 B.C.E.
The modern-day voice of Malik's narration over the flashback scenes of ancient history is inspired, which makes it a little sad that Malik and Jordan are so quickly gone from the narrative. The book cuts, six pages in, away from them, and doesn't go back. Instead, we dive into the story that the preamble explained: a tale of two towns in the same county, Ashthorne and the City of Sacred. The towns are at odds, with Ashthorne populated by pacifist vampires who don't prey on humans and the City of Sacred filled with, as the vampires describe, "religious fanatics" who want to destroy the peaceful vamps.
After the lynching of a zombie, who was attacked because he was assumed to be a vampire by the denizens of the City of Sacred, the vampires of Ashthorne meet to discuss their problem, this, the battle between the two towns, the meddling of Cadirata, an ancient vampire who wants to go to war with the City of Sacred, is compelling. It reminds me of True Blood in all of its allegorical goodness, as well as in its dark humor. The dramatic depiction of the zombie hanging from the tree, only for the creature, introduced as Sully, to say mutter, "I'm really getting sick of this" after being taken down is a standout moment. It's when the narrative strays from the tension between these two towns that I found it, as a new reader, most hard to follow. We're introduced to Chastity, who shoots zombies in a blaze of glory before the big pull back to reveal she's shooting a movie. Mid-page rapid cuts to a pile of final notices and Chastity in a vacant airport, followed by a cut to Draculina and people watching her, were tough to follow.
While the narrative remains compelling and the art by both artists as well as colorists June Chang and Mohan and letterer Willie Schubert make for a beautiful book, almost every panel is a medium or close-up shot. This leads to a great deal of dialogue coming from off-panel, as the art focuses so closely on the characters that it is difficult to tell what is going on around them. Wider shots, or just a greater variety of angles and perspectives, would make this book easier to follow. New readers are meeting a large cast for the first time, so any visual cues to help contextualize these characters in every scene would have improved upon the comic.
All in all, Sacred Six #1 is well-written if a bit hard to follow for the uninitiated. It's the opening scroll of text that gives enough background information to save this issue. The story of the conflict between Ashthorne and City of Sacred seems like one that will be worth following, but my advice would be to begin where editor Matt Idelson, in one of his captions, harkens back to Priest's Vampirella run.