Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sword of Sorcery #0: Amethyst and Beowulf

My biggest complaint of this comic is the awkwardness of the title. Sword of Sorcery just doesn't sound right to me, for some reason. I know that it was a title of a DC Comic in the past, but it really just doesn't sing to me. Maybe because of there being two leads? I'm not sure. Regardless, it is a fairly minor complaint, as comic complaints go.

I will get this right out of the way at the beginning. I was a huge fan of Jem and the Holograms as a kid. There, I said it. I even think that some of the writing on the cartoon has held up surprisingly well over the years. Yes, there is some terribly bad stuff in those shows, but it has held up better to the adult me better than many of its contemporaries. And, while I did like the Amethyst comic in the 80s, it was the connection of Christy Marx's writing that drew me to the book.

Amethyst is a play on Japanese magical girl tropes, to me. This might have been unintentional the first time around, and with just one issue out I can't really determine if this is the case with the new incarnation of the book. Everyone wants to grow up, until they get there and find out that things are never as much fun as they think it will be, and it is usually much, much scarier.

Amy Winston is the outsider girl. She moves around a lot. For a lot of people high school was tough enough without adding the stresses of continually moving. This is brought to painful realization within the first two pages of the story. I don't know what it would have been like to have been a teenage girl, but I get the impression that Marx's portrayal in this story wouldn't be too far off base. She would be more of an expert, having been a teenaged girl once herself. The characterization is engaging, it gives the characters depth and draws you into the story as you wait for the fantasy element that you know is coming. Amy and Beryl seem to me to be realistic portrayals of teenage girls. They both come off as smart, funny and complicated...just like real teenagers, or adults for that matter. Both want acceptance in their own ways.
This brings us to the part of the story that some people have focused on in talking about this story: the near sexual assault of Beryl, an almost friend of Amy's at the high school. Beryl wants acceptance, so she makes a poor choice to meet a boy behind the bleachers after the football team. This isn't a statement of blame, but unfortunately it is a choice made by women all too often. This is probably the paragraph (if noticed at all) that will get the most negative comment.

Amy stops the abuse before anything more permanent than torn clothing and a scared girl happens, which is a good thing. More importantly it shows her character as the hero, someone willing to step in to a potentially dangerous situation just because it is the right thing to do. Women or men, this is an important lesson to learn. Of course, socially things turn bad for Amy even though she did the right thing. This is an important lesson of heroism, I think, because it shows that the right thing isn't always the easy thing and being willing to take the difficult choice is (for me) proof of heroism. More than magic powers or a fancy costume, certainly. It also sets the tone for Amy's character, at least I hope it does, for the rest of the story that Marx and Aaron Lopresti are going to tell.

Not long after this, Amy and her mother make the transition to Gemworld and, ironically, that is when things start to get real. A few early cut scenes in the story show a lady Amethyst (Amy's aunt and her mother's sister) is killing those who have the family's blood in them, in order to gain some further portion of the bloodline's power. I am sure that this is why Amy's mother left Gemworld with Amy and why the two had moved around so much while on Earth. A big battle ensues, but to me it isn't as important of a scene as the one where Amy saves Beryl, at least not until Amy jumps into the fight to save her mom. Again, she doesn't worry about herself, just helping someone who is close to her.

I enjoyed this story a lot, and it makes me want to continue picking up the book as it comes out. Marx's writing is engaging and moves things along quickly, and definitely pulls you into the story, while Lopresti demonstrates that he can draw both the mundane and the fantastic. It is also nice that Lopresti's female characters all have differing body types and they look like normal women, rather than stick figures smuggling beach balls in their tops.

Now, the Beowulf back up. This story didn't engage me as much, but I blame that more on the eight pages that Tony Bedard had for telling the story more than anything else. I think that Jesus Saiz, always a strong artist with a well-defined style to his work, is a good choice for a shorter story because of the dynamic quality that he brings to a story. I am just going to need more than eight pages to get a read on this character, and this story, which is a shame because what little there is to it is very well done by both Bedard and Saiz.

I know that Beowulf is set in the future of the DCU, and I can't shake the feeling that it will be revealed that Beowulf is an existing DC character. I guess we will see and time will tell.

Overall, this is a good comic. Really, one of the better that I have read in the New 52. I put it up there with first wave comics like Frankenstein Agent of SHADE and Resurrection Man.