THE CALIPH'S GIFT AND FOUR MORE STORIES by Thomas Durwood, Benedick Bana, Oscar Gregborn, Devin Korwin, Boell Oyino, and Well-Bee
Thomas Durwood takes readers on a ride through history and across the world. We look at historical events that are often ignored. Although sometimes Durwood tells us rather than shows us actions, the stories are never bogged down and keep a fairly quick pace. Each story is paired with a different artist, Benedick Bana, Oscar Gregborn, Devin Korwin, Boell Oyino, and Well-Bee, who do an amazing job reflecting Durwood's storytelling.
85 %
History at it's Finest
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History is full of compelling stories. It is often a great place to pull inspiration, since history presents so many different ideas. THE CALIPH’S GIFT AND FOUR MORE STORIES by Thomas Durwood takes these ideas from history and gives readers a new perspective of historical events. This gives readers a much needed reminder of where we’ve been. This sponsored review will take at how Durwood uses history in order to provide an interesting and engaging narrative.

The comic itself is a collection of five different stories,”Love Triangle in the High Sierras”, “The Caliph’s Gift”, “The Jade Necklace”, “A Saloon Reunion”, and “The Ayyubids’ Vision”. From western revenge to an attack on the Nile, these stories provide a perspective and story within history that American students are not often taught. What makes these stories more intriguing is the background Durwood provides. He gives us a context and research jumping-on points in case one of these stories interests you, which is something I always enjoy having.

The Caliph's Gift
Courtesy of Empire Studios Press

Fast-Paced Plots in a Short Period of Time

Each story within this collection is a standalone story. This works in Durwood’s favor because really, most of these stories are introductions to longer stories. Although at times these stories seem more told rather than shown, each one sets up for a rocky ride through history.

The story that intrigued me the most was “The Jade Necklace,” a story about the Mayan civilization and one of the theories on how it collapsed. The proposed idea is that, because corn crops that the Mayans grew were not diverse, disease spread easily from plant to plant, wiping out entire crops. Durwood portrays how people would react when their food supply has run out. Resorting to violence and lawlessness, the story articulates how chaos would ensue if a society runs out of food.

The only real downside I experienced is that Durwood is a “tell don’t show” type of writer. For a lot of readers, I know this can be a drawback. However, Durwood uses it to his advantage. The stories read almost like a work of graphic literature rather than a standard comic. Playing with how readers perceive and read comics can be fun and engaging, and THE CALIPH’S GIFT uses this method to its advantage.

Revenge on the High Seas in SHANGHAI RED #1

Characters Galore!

Durwood also does an amazing job of creating different personas for each character. Although there is not a lot of time in each comic to get to know each person, Durwood utilizes the short time to give us characters that are distinctly different from one another.

Each story begins with a page or two of text. We get a bit of historical background and some information on the main character of the story. We don’t get a background on anyone else. In “A Saloon Reunion”, it only takes one panel to realize who the antagonist of the short story is. What makes this especially interesting is the main character in “A Saloon Reunion” is referred to as “The German Boy”. He doesn’t get a name or a fully fleshed out identity, yet the reader can still relate to him. I feel that, by not giving the boy a name, Durwood creates an effect similar to Spider-man. It gives more room for readers to imagine themselves in his place. Durwood manages to utilize his short time by making a quick relationship between the reader and the main character.

The Caliph's Gift
Courtesy of Empire Studios Press


One of the major positives to this collection is the art. Each artist (Benedick Bana, Oscar Gregborn, Devin Korwin, Boell Oyino, and Well-Bee) keep their style centered on the story. This gives readers different forms of art to look at, but may even inspire readers to look up art from different places around the world.

The art that I believe was the most gripping was in the story, “The Caliph’s Gift”. The details in the border remind readers that the setting is 1600 Spain. The patterns along the edge go from bloody text to geometric patterns that resemble Spanish Muslim art. Well-Bee’s choice to keep the art similar to the time period keeps the reader grounded in the history of the Dutch Revolt. It also keeps the reader engaged by shifting tones and style as the story continues on. This provides readers with a background that Durwood does not explicitly say, but Well-Bee heavily implies.

Folklore and Perspective from VENERATION Z

All five illustrators keep the reader grounded within Durwood’s historical context. They keep their style and details centered on the time period of history. This attention to detail and historical prowess is impressive and reinforces Durwood’s ideas. Overall, the art is absolutely stunning.

Overall Thoughts on THE CALIPH’S GIFT

All in all, Durwood’s stories are only a sample of what is to come. The story and art are gripping and leaves the reader hungry for more. If you loved “Love Triangle in the High Sierras” or “The Jade Necklace”, expanded editions of these are available. Additionally, readers are given some information about history that may not have been taught in schools. Durwood provides an interesting jumping-on point for his stories, as well as expanded versions. If you loved “Love Triangle in the High Sierras” or “The Jade Necklace”, expanded editions of these are available.

If we don’t learn about history, we are doomed to repeat it. This is a sentiment that today’s society could strongly remember. We are currently repeating the same mistakes. However, this just emphasizes the importance of Thomas Durwood’s THE CALIPH’S GIFT.

Love the art and story in THE CALIPH’S GIFT? Check out more at their website, Empire Studies Press!

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