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Sword of Sorcery #4 – Review

SWORD OF SORCERY #4

By: Christy Marx (story), Travis Moore (pencils), Karl Story (inks), Hi-Fi (colors)

The Story: Amy spends her last hour on Earth indulging in mankind’s greatest invention.

The Review: One WCBR reader who regularly comments on this series is David Austin, who has often mentioned his disappointment that Sword of Sorcery isn’t appropriate for his young daughter to read.  To be honest, my first instinct was to scoff and dismiss the concern—sorry Dave, but this is a mainstream comic with the word “sword” in the title, after all—but lately, I’ve developed a little more appreciation for his point of view.

It is true that certain moments in the series haven’t been very kid-friendly (e.g. the sexual harassment of Amy’s “friend,” Mordiel’s attempt to have Amy kill her own mother, the squabble between the Diamond princes over whether one has the right to bed a soldier’s new bride).  Yet at the same time, this title doesn’t quite cross the threshold into serious fantasy-drama.  It has been Game of Thrones-Lite, which doesn’t exactly make for an enthusiastic fanbase.

Marx’s experience lies mainly in cartoon work and her comics style reflects that.  It shouldn’t surprise you at all that the issue really sings when it shifts away from the magical conflicts to more lighthearted tensions.  For example, you have to enjoy the dynamic between Amy and Constantine.  While Constantine purists may get miffed that their favorite Brit in a trenchcoat has softened up considerably in the mainstream DCU, I actually think Marx does a good job showing John’s affection for Amy without making it overt.

As Clint Barton and Kate Bishop demonstrate regularly on Hawkeye, a big brother-little sister relationship, even an adoptive one, is a beautiful thing.  The idea of Amy wheedling Constantine to repay her time by taking her to Chicago to taste deep-dish pizza again* is just charming, and when she manages to bum twenty bucks off of him for the outing, it feels very comfortable.  I like that Marx leaves room for more Constantine-Amy interactions in the future, because they really possess the purely warm and fun spirit that’s been missing since Stephanie Brown got sent to comic book limbo.

What concerns me is that Marx isn’t writing a breezy romp in the vein of Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl.  From what we’ve seen thus far, she ultimately wants to get a serious story out of this, but if the corporate sorceress in this issue indicates the kind of villainy we can expect from the series, that bodes ill indeed.  This “Ilene” comes off like a goof from the moment she appears; one look at her and you know she’ll come to some poetically fitting disposal.  Her whole sequence just feels awkward and by-the-numbers.

I somewhat remember Moore’s work from his time on the doomed Freedom Fighters and my vague recollections make me feel like he was more impressive then than now.  Although he nails the cutesy parts of the issue (Amy nursing a distended belly after consuming a deep-dish ‘za all to herself), he also carries that cartoony quality over to the threatening scenes as well, making it less likely you’ll take them seriously.  Hi-Fi’s bright, cheerful colors don’t do much to convey suspense, either.

While I thought the Beowulf feature had been a pretty decent back-up to the series, Mark Andreyko’s “Stalker” reads like a piece devised by an overenthusiastic creative writing student.  The titular character is a barbarian who fails utterly to earn your affection or sympathy with any redeeming quality whatsoever, and when he falls for the simplest-stupid bargain of the soul ever made through a fool’s errand of demonic wordplay, you only feel it’s rightfully deserved.  There are lines which sound phoned in: “Across the ages, he fought, he killed…waiting, always waiting.  Never knowing when his part of the unholy bargain would be called in.  Soulless, unloved, alone—Stalker killed again and again.”  The art, sadly, is no better; Andrei Bressan’s rough, sketchy style reeks of melodrama at every turn and Chris Sotomayor’s uninspired colors do nothing to help that.

Conclusion: A woefully inadequate and pedestrian back-up mars an already mixed bag of a main feature.

Grade: C

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * As a lover of both Chicago and its pizza, deep-dish most of all, I have never had such respect for Amy as I did in this issue.

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4 Responses

  1. Exactly. I’d be happy with well-written kid-friendly adventures for my daughter, or with some serious sword-and-sorcery action a la the solid Beowulf backup. Marx is vacillating between the two, and not really scratching either itch – too simplistic for adult fare, too hardcore for kids. Maybe this hits the sweet spot for a tween?

    That said, this was the weakest issue since the opener. Without Lopresti’s lovely pencils and the political machinations, this one had to get by on a little charm and a dumb monster-of-the-week plot that would not have been out of place in a 1980’s issue of Power Pack.

    Frankly, not entirely sure why I am bothering at this point. Given sales and Marx’s taking on of an additional title, I don’t see this one as long for the world. The current iteration of Journey Into Mystery is scratching the same itch far better anyway (you guys should check it out – Immonen’s writing is fine, but Schiti’s art is stellar).

    • You know, I can see the potential in the title, and I am interested to see how Marx plays it. I can chalk this issue’s downgrade in quality up to not entirely sympathetic art and a forced crossover with Justice League Dark. But I would like to get a little more meat from the title at some point.

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