SWORD OF SORCERY #1 AMETHYST & BEOWULF
Writer: Christy Marx & Tony Bedard
Artist: Aaron Lopresti & Jesus Saiz
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
This third wave of New 52 is a strange wave indeed. PHANTOM STRANGER makes sense; the trinity of sin has been teased long enough, time to start opening their evil kimonos. TEAM 7 I liked in execution, I just can’t understand why the five years before thing…is still a thing. TALON, meh, would have been better if it was Bruce Wayne’s supposed “Brother” as the focal character. I get TALON from a sales perspective, but I just don’t care about some random Court of Owls assassin.
Then there’s SWORD OF SORCERY. It’s not a corrective measure, nor is it a Jefferson (my term for characters too big to contain in their parent series). It’s an almost 40 year old property that I have never heard whispered out of the mouths’ of nerds. However, out of the three it is far and away the property worthy of the famed comic outcry EXCELSIOR.
Marx has hydraulic powered writing chops, which is no surprise since she basically wrote the story of Gen X’s youth. Transformers, G.I. Joe, hell even Jem and the Holograms were all Marx’s brain-babies. In the days when cable topped out at 50 channels, before there were 12 different cartoon networks, I and practically all of my contemporaries were enthralled by a Marx property between the hours of 3 and 5 PM after school every day.
Twenty some odd years later, Marx has lost none of her luster and it shines through in AMETHYST. Where so many writers of yore end up trapped in amber in with their structure and tonality, Marx shows she still has the aptitude to tap into the Zeitgeist of youth.
This is issue 1, but let’s all be honest with each other, issue 1 was really disguised in the circular wrapper of zero last month. Issue zero introduced to our hero Amy, a girl moved from place-to-pace her whole life, looking or some kind of tether to other teens. As she approached her 17th birthday in that issue, her courage gained power as she helped a girl in school escape Jock rape and summarily be dismissed by said girl for ruining her chance at popularity. Basically Amy, like so many youth, just wants to belong, to not feel alone in the world. Unfortunately she is alone as she learns when her Mother enacts a ritutla seventeen years in the making that teleports them to the equivalent of DC’s middle earth.
Once in this strange land, which is ruled by the houses of greater and lesser gems, Amy learns her birthright as the Princess of the Amethyst Empire and why she and her Mother had been hiding in our world for so many years. Apparently Amy’s Aunt and her Mother have a difference in opinion on who should rule, and Amy was kept safe on Earth Prime until she reached a battle ready age.
Now, that’s the meta story, the high-level. Marx grounds the book in Amy’s wonder at this new land (especially the fact she’s now instantly blonde), he struggle with this new power of the Amethyst gem and a birthright to rule that would be unsettling for any American. As her new allies of the lesser Citrine help Amy and her Mother escape the forces of the ruling Amethyst queen, Marx does a wonderful job infusing our world’s sensibilities and sarcasm with the ancient age of reverence and birthright. Amy…Amethyst…whatever you want to call her, is a strong female character who doesn’t need to use sex or man hating to be interesting. She exuded a power of sprit in issue 0 helping others when she didn’t have mystical powers fueling her. Now that she’s super charged with AMETHYST, her tale becomes even more intriguing.
I also applaud Marx for gently acclimating us to this strange new world. In each issue we learn a little more about this mystical place in just the right drips and drabs. Issue 0 introduced us to the House of Amethyst blood feud. Issue 1 expands to show us a little more about the Amethyst revel allies in the House of Citrine and introduces the House of Diamond, another greater house waiting o see who will win in the war of Amethyst.
Lopresti delivers gorgeous pencils that fall between traditional fantasy and younger reader comic fare. But even in this sugar coated fantasy land there is a realness and power to every emotional close-up and weathered face of battle.
I never thought I would endorse a book about a teenage heroine and a land divided up by precious gems, but I stand here doing just that. Of course the fangeezer in me is pulling a fervid Horseshack (R.I.P.) oh oh oh oh Mr. Carter, on questions like, “Is this strange land a parallel earth or a pocket dimension” and “how the hell does this tie into main continuity?” However, for now, Marx has created enough of a character drama to keep those questions at bay.
Now where I’m having a hard time keeping those questions bottled is the Bedard penned BEOWULF back-up. I groaned when I read the title; as I remembered being subjected to this poem of ancient heroics in every English class from 7th grade to 101 in college. But then I saw Saiz’s gorgeous renderings of the ancient Nordic landscape and Bedard’s unique twist on the mythology of placing Beowulf as a modern man in ancient lands and I realized this was BEOWULF in name, but not ancient boredom.
As we rolled into issue 2, I mean 1, I was fully ready to accept this as a stand-alone Science-Fantasy tale and put my questions of continuity and larger world context on the shelf where they belong. Now, it wasn’t the appearance of Iron Trolls that made my fangeezer radar go off. After all, if an ancient Nord saw a robot, troll would be a pretty good designation. It was when we switched to BEOWULF’s POV, and we get a computer Head’s Up Display that identifies the Iron Trolls as Waynetech war machines.
SO BEOWULF is either a machine or a man with heavy cybernetics and Waynetech has made its way to this strange land of yore. After these revelations, I think fans everywhere are justified in their own Horseshack moments of inquiry as we wait for the pieces to come together.
Again, enjoy these stories for what they are – FANTASTIC FUCKING STORIES. If you or a young fan in your life find comic continuity impenetrable, SWORD OF SORCERY is a greta palce to get the best of the New DC sans any baggage…for now…maybe…I think…who knows…just go enjoy a GREAT book.