By: Christy Marx (story), Aaron Lopresti (art), Hi-Fi (colors)

The Story: On the plus side, Amy discovers that the constant dye jobs are no longer necessary.

The Review: An ongoing featuring Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, is definitely one of those projects which sound like high-risk, high-reward.  After all, the story of a girl from Earth traveling to a magic land where she transforms into a blonde and purple-robed sorceress sounds more appropriate for a children’s cartoon than mainstream comics.  Cute as her DC Nation short appearances were, can Amethyst make a dent in the new DCU?

If you want to make it in a serious business, you have to take your work seriously, and Marx does just that.  On the one hand, this is yet another story where the mother keeps secrets from her daughter, forcing her to do inexplicable things, all to prepare her for some major quest later on.  But Amy’s mom makes it clear that she’s keeping secrets that will be revealed at a precise time and date; there’s an element of control and foresight in her planning that sets her apart from the woman who does what she can and simply hopes for the best.

Coming from such solid genetic stock, Amy herself comes across centered and real—or as centered and real as you can be in these extraordinary circumstances.  Though frustrated with the life she must live, she lives it obediently and as patiently as possible.  You get the sense that her outburst in this issue is an outlier, not the rule, which makes her more likable a character than if she was your typical fly-off-the-handle teenager.  You also appreciate her grounded perspective on the mystical things happening to her.  After her transformation, she says dryly, “I have the power to be blonde.  Wow.  I am sooooo thrilled with that.”

Marx also avoids the cliché of the mother and daughter conflict, which plagues about ninety percent of stories involving that relationship.  Although there is tension between Amy and Gracie(l), their love is no doubt.  This won’t be a situation where Amy doesn’t realize how much she cares until it’s too late.  The moment her mom’s in danger, she fights her guards off and rushes in, ready to stand by her mom’s side.  I hope Gracie sticks around; it’s been a while since we’ve had a developed mother and daughter story in comics.

The plot itself is nothing much: the reclamation of a throne, a family power struggle, warring houses, and ancient history.  This is Fantasy 101, but Marx seems to recognize that, so we should expect some new ideas down the line.  In fact, Marx begins the process by drawing upon the rest of the DCU for inspiration, including the unexpected appearance of a certain magical mainstay towards the end.  You don’t expect this particular bloke to show up in this particular title.

Lopresti has always been one of the most dependable of DC’s artists.  Though he takes few risks and tells the story straight, as close to the script as possible, he has a very distinctive, full-bodied style which gives his art more flair than the average workman.  His time on Justice League International has honed his hand at action sequences quite a bit; each of Amy’s blows as she fights off a bunch of would-be sexual molesters looks practiced and painful, even if Lopresti doesn’t veer away from your typical side-kicks and palm thrusts.

I question the wisdom of injecting a back-up into this fledgling series without letting the heroine stand on her own, but the creative forces work out pretty well.  The spin of Beowulf as an anachronism of the Dark Age, a futuristic soldier implanted among folk who still wear fur as armor, is intriguing.  Besides, this kind of old-school tale leans towards the melodrama, which suits Bedard well, and he has terrific artistic support from Jesus Saiz and colorist Brian Reber (both of whom deserve better outlets than second features, but what can you do?).

Conclusion: Though not completely sold on the originality of either feature in this title, both have plenty of strengths working for them that I can imagine a fairly devoted following beyond the cult.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I appreciate how, in Lopresti’s eyes, a high school is populated by guys in their teens and girls in their late twenties.

– Hey, Lady Mordiel’s not all bad.  She’s not about to let a family lose their daughter without compensation.  Even though, technically, she extinguished the girl herself.