A stunning blend of word and illustration, Sergio Toppi elevates the comic art form in Sharaz-De: Tales From The Arabian Nights.
A set of tales inspired by the Arabian Nights by the late European comics master Sergio Toppi, exploring a barbaric society where the supernatural is the only remedy to injustice, as Sharaz-de, captive to a cruel and despotic king, must each night spin tales to entertain her master and save her head from the executioner. Tales filled with evil spirits, treasures, risk, and danger, but with ever at their center the passions of gods and men.
A European master only now getting printed in English via Archaia Entertainment, Sharaz-De: Tales Of The Arabian Nights is a masterfully crafted comic. It’s unlike anything else I read in 2012 and reminded me of the wealth of foreign material that English readers have yet to experience.
Toppi adapts a series of tales from 1001 Arabian Nights, maintaining the exotic nature of the text through the stunning visuals. The source material can be traced back to the ninth century and has endured for so long because they’re wonderfully imaginative and diverse. The basic framework is used here: a king is cheated on so he kills his wife and beds a new woman every night and executes her the next morning. The last woman to visit his bed tells him a story, and he keeps her alive day-to-day to hear another story each night.
Of course one look at the images included and you’ll see it’s Toppi’s art that steals the show. It’s beautifully done, detailed and immersive. The layout and design of the pages provide so much detail to the tale that it’s hard to tear yourself away to turn the page. Everything flows seamlessly, no matter what aspect of graphic storytelling used. There are a few chapters in colour and initially I was concerned they wouldn’t be able to compare to the line work of the black and white chapters, but Toppi’s colour choices are so vibrant and bold they create a dynamic break in the story.
Sharaz-De: Tales Of The Arabian Nights is a solid hardcover. Walt Simonson provides the introduction and there’s a short biography of Sergio Toppi at the end. There’s no reason to add more to this: take a look at the sample pages and you’ll see this book is a must have.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.