Rostam: Tales From the Shahnameh (Hyperwerks)
Imagine being in your early thirties and having someone tell you the tales of Hercules for the first time. That is what it was like for me when I first picked up my copies of Rostam. Ancient Persian folklore is not a subject that I have has the inclination to study. Not for any particular reason, mind you. I came to realize that most of the history I have chosen to study has been based on whatever is popular in the media at the time. I’ve studied ancient Egypt, Asia, Ancient Greece and Rome. Now I’m happy to say the the tale of Rostam is my gateway into the tales of Ancient Persia.
The comic itself is an adaptation on the writings of poet Ferdowsi. He’s the Persian answer to the Greek poet Homer. His work the “Shahnameh” aka “Book of Kings” serves as the source material.
The first story arc is broken into three issues that all deal with a different adventure. The common strain through it all is Rostam. A giant among men with the strength and battle knowledge that make him the fiercest warrior in Persia. But he’s more than just a heavy hand, he’s an intelligent caring person with the highest sense of nationalism for his country. This this three issue arc, he not only defends his king and country from foreign invaders, but also from supernatural creatures moving against Persia.
The first book “Rostam: Tales of the Shahnameh” gives readers the introduction to the main characters and tells of Rostam’s most famous adventures, his meeting of his love, Tahmineh. The story opens with Rostam meeting Princess Tahmineh in Turan. Now at this point in history, Turan is a neighboring county to Iran and is extremely independent. It is here that Rostam clashes with some difficult obstacles, the most impressive of which is his long lost son, Sohrab. The relationship between Rostam and his son is pretty heart-wrenching, but makes for a great story.
The second book “Rostam: Return of the King” is a flash back to the king’s, Kai-Kavous, taking of a wife. I have to say that I was a bit taken aback by the manner of which the king takes his wife, because it’s more of a “claiming” of a wife. I had to remind myself that I was reading a story based on an ancient poem, set during a time when women were treated differently. The woman the king claims as his queen is the daughter of a neighboring kingdom, and its ruler is none too happy about his daughter’s situation. So he captures the Kai and imprisons him. Enter Rostam to save his king and open up a can destruction on the enemies of Iran.
In the issue “Rostam: Battle with the Deevs” We see our hero go through an emotional sandstorm from the events in the first issue. Casting himself into exile, Rostam is living the life of a hermit while events back home are taking a drastic turn. Rostam is forced to face his personal demons, and a couple of real demons, to get back to his rightful place.
Overall I was pretty impressed with all three of these issues. Every once in a while the story would make a big jump in time and the reader gets a “several months later” text box, but it wasn’t all too distracting. I can imagine that the original poem had these time jumps as well.
The writing is solid. I can’t think that translating am ancient Persian poem is an easy task,but the writing by Bruce Bahmani and Robert Napton seems up to the challenge. Couple that with the awesome pencils of Karl Altsaetter, and you’ve got a great combo.
Be sure to check out Hyperwerks.com and TheShahnameh.com for more on Rostam and other titles from Hyperwerks. Also, if you happen to be at the San Jose Super Con on May 16th-17th stop by these guys and give them a hug…tell them it’s from ThePullBox!