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Sword of Sorcery #1 – Review

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

The Story: This is clearly the worst—and best—land for anyone distracted by shiny objects.

The Review: If this series has one major obstacle to success, it’d have to be the fact that it’s a title about princesses and crystals and lots of purple, trying to find fans from an audience of mostly twenty-something-year-old men.  To achieve a more widespread appeal, Marx will have to minimize even the appearance of girly-girlishness and make Gemworld a more complicated, true blue, sword-and-sorcery setting.

So far, Marx has taken some small steps towards that goal.  Although transformed into the spitting image of your usual blond, warrior princess, Amy Winston certainly doesn’t act like it.  She outright rejects the title, and it’s telling that when addressed as “Princess,” she takes offense at what she perceives as a sarcastic comment on her limitations in battle.  As seen in #0, Amy has made it a life habit to shy away from group-think and stereotype, which will only cause tension between her and the traditionalist forces of Gemworld.

Tradition apparently involves a Game of Thrones style of territorial domination, with the land of Nilaa divvied up by “major” and “minor” houses, ostensibly a reflection of the “major” and “minor” gems they’re named after.  The minor houses seem content in their subservient alliances with the major ones, and as Lord Reishan of House Diamond indicates, power in this world can shift radically depending on the conflicts and loyalties among the major powers.  My hope would be for Marx to make a concerted effort to avoid portraying these relationships in arbitrary, simplistic terms, and as the results of deep cultural, historical, and political factors.

While you can’t really find much in the series thus far that’s groundbreaking, it does make some interesting choices in the story that steps away from cliché.  I like Amy’s loyalty to her mom, even though it requires charging forward into situations she’s not mentally prepped for.  It makes the hurt she feels when Graciel rebuffs her efforts more stinging and real, a good thing in this case since the story’s emotional weight rests in their bond.  Also worthy of note is Mordiel’s reaction to her sister’s message, particularly the introduction of her niece.  She seems melancholy, an emotion you wouldn’t expect in this context; it’ll be interesting to learn why.

Lopresti has always been a solid performer among DC’s artists.  He brings some wonderful detail to his work, filling up all the spaces with activity, but making sure your eye is always drawn to the right focus of each panel.  He has a fine sense of design, although there’s a sameness to the appearance of his characters that makes it hard to tell them apart.  Even with their different outfits (and Amy’s slightly longer hair), you can easily mix up mother and daughter—and aunt, for that matter.

In the back-up, Tony Bedard writes a world that has regressed to a more primitive age, apparently the result of some major conflict in the past.  It’s a bleak image of the DCU’s future (notice that the “[i]ron trolls” are actually high-tech mecha with “Waynetech” ID’s), but otherwise nothing too special or exciting happens.  The confrontation between “Beowulf” and “Grendel” will be spectacular, no doubt, but the real interest lies in figuring out how this world came to be in the first place.  In the meantime, you can enjoy some lush, macho art by Jesus Saiz, colored in appropriately earthy grays and browns by Brian Reber.

Conclusion: A baby step forward in the right direction, though neither the main nor back-up features have shown much in the way of originality just yet.

Grade: B

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - “[My mother] wants me to become an archivist like her… I’d rather be an archer,” Princess Ingvie says.  I enjoy the possibility of Final Fantasy-type “roles” in the future.  Black mage for the win!

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5 Responses

  1. Black mage? Surely you meant ‘red’ mage?

    I’d never encountered the Gemworld mythos prior to the reboot, but I applaud DC for continuing to push a more varied line of comics. I’ll continue to buy this and Demon Knights till I see a noticeable drop in quality (or they get cancelled)

    • I’m depressed that Paul Cornell is leaving Demon Knights, but I hope they can find someone who can maintain the title’s momentum. It’s one of my current favorites.

      • I’m pretty disappointed about Cornell’s departure, too. I’m willing to give Robert Venditti a try. Even though his dearth of published work is troubling, I’ve heard enough good things about X-O

      • [continuing where I left off, just before I accidentally clicked Enter]…Manowar for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    • I think perhaps you’re right. Red Mage for the win.

      I do like the variety that DC is offering now. If they can push their cosmic universe beyond the Green Lantern stuff, that’d be great, too.

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