Sword of Sorcery 2

Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Sword of Sorcery 2, originally released November 21st, 2012.

Shelby: Who doesn’t love political intrigue? I’m not talking about the presidential campaign nonsense we recently had to put up with, I mean the old school machinations that only a royal family could conceive of. When power is passed through bloodlines (literal magical powers divied up among the relatives), manipulating those bloodlines and relations suddenly becomes crucial to keeping a position of authority. Things are about to get complicated, so I’m going to try to map this out as best I can.

The issue opens with Amy trying to be cool and not puke in front of her new friend Ingvie, Princess of House Citrine, while Graciel conducts some business with House Onyx. At a fancy dinner that night with houses Citrine, Amethyst, and Turquoise, Amy learns a little bit more about the world she’s landed in. Apparently, back in the day, Graciel was betrothed to Reishan, the asshole dad of House Diamond. She instead fell in love with Vyrian of House Turquoise, so they ran off and got married. For those of you keeping track, that makes the current Lord Firojha of Turquoise Amy’s grandpa. After Graciel and Vyrian fled, Mordiel married Reishan in her place, but the marriage was annulled when Mordial realized she couldn’t have babies. So now, Graciel is back, and is the rightful heir to the Amethyst throne, and has brought an heir of her own. Here, I made a chart to help keep it straight; it’s color-coded!

ANYWAY Graciel decides to share the power of House Amethyst with Amy, which means the total power of the house will be split evenly between Amy, Graciel, and Mordiel. During the ceremony, Amy can tap into her aunt’s thoughts and emotions, and Mordiel very nearly convinces Amy to kill her own mother. Luckily, Graciel’s advice before the ceremony (remember that I love you) prevails, and everyone comes out of it unharmed. Well, except Mordiel, who now has a third of the house’s power instead of half, so she summons Onyx assassins to kill Graciel, but orders they leave Amy unharmed.

This issue is packed to the GILLS. Somehow, with the action and political baggage, Christy Marx still finds time to give us some character development. I’m most interested in Hadran, the middle son of the lord of House Diamond. In a mere two pages, Marx very effectively establishes him as less terrible than the rest of his family when he busts his older brother’s very own prima nocta party. Interesting fact: this is another character development point which involves an attempted rape. Again, much like in the zero issue, I only saw this as a plot point: an easy way to show Hadran as a decent person compared to his brother, as well as forge a connection between him and Amy, who appear to be approximately the same age. As I see it, Marx is planning to further complicate the thorny relationship between houses Diamond and Amethyst with a friendship/potential romance between the two heirs. Will the Internet see this as another black mark on this “kid-friendly” title? Does it make it better or worse that this time the attempted rape is set in pseudo-medieval times, and the rescuer is a man? Only time will tell.

Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti continue to sparkle (har har) with this story. It’s not Marx’s complicated politics or Lopresti’s sweeping city-scapes that really sell it; they have such a great way with small, character moments as well. My favorite is shortly after Amy and Graciel’s arrival at the seat of House Citrine. The Lady of the House is rather fond of pomp and circumstance, and invites Amy to make a recording to mark the historical significance of the moment.

That’s perfect. Amy, like any 17-year-old put on the spot, can only be awkward, prompting mild annoyance from the Lady. It’s so natural and light, a perfect way to help ground this fantasy world in a believable reality. Marx has actually been really smart by giving Amy the same amount of information as we the readers have. It makes expository dialogue far less cumbersome, and again, helps ground this world in reality.

Tony Bedard’s Beowulf continues to delight as well. Beowulf wounds the Grendel before it can kill Wiglaf, but the beast escapes because it is horrifying.

Taking Wiglaf as his guide, Beowulf tracks Grendel to his lair, which is actually a hi-tec bunker wherein Grendel recovers in a giant vat. Beowulf is about to cut him down when he is stopped by Grendel’s mother.

Now, the thing I like the most about this title is hunting for ties to current DC characters. I’m going to be a big ol’ nerd with this one; I suspect Grendel’s mother is some version of Genevieve Cray. Back in the day, Alan Moore did a three-issue arc on Deathblow about Genevieve, who is a clone of Michael Cray. It could very well just be because you don’t encounter a ton of bald ladies in comic books, but the whole clone/bio-engineering aspect of Genevieve’s story fits in with the “sorcery” seen here.

This title remains one of my favorites. I love these two stories, Amethyst for its fantasy aspect and character development, and Beowulf for its horror and possible DCU Easter eggs. This book is blessed to have not one incredible creative team, but TWO; after some of the hot mess issues we’ve read recently *coughCATWOMANcough*, it’s nice to get back on track with something so worthwhile.

Taylor: Shelby, I too am continuing to enjoy this title for its overall quality and for the simple fact that, unlike a lot of titles I’ve been reading, it actually has me waiting with bated breath for the next issue. Additionally, like you said, it’s kind of amazing to have two fun titles, that are considerably different in tone, packed into one issue, perhaps making Sword of Sorcery and Beowulf one of the best bang for your buck titles DC is offering.

One of the things you mentioned this title doing well, Shelby, was the development of its characters while the plot still manages to address all sorts of intense action and intrigue. The scene in House Diamond with Hadran that you mentioned is a really good example of this, and in a title with so many characters, I like that Marx lets us know what kind of a person a character is in a relatively simple and effective fashion. Whereas other comics *coughTeam7cough* struggle to develop voices and personalities for their characters, Sword of Sorcery seems to do so with ease. Whether this is a conscious effort or just the work of a storyteller who has an intuitive understanding of how to develop a narrative I can’t say, but it makes the world of Amethyst somehow incredibly believable — a hard thing to achieve when we’re talking about a world where magic power is transferred via bloodlines. I think this speaks all the more to the strength of Marx’s writing since any story we as readers genuinely care about must have characters we care for and find believable. I mean, what teenager wouldn’t find lizard on a stick unappetizing? There is truth in that.

What also sells me on this issue is the art. Shelby, you briefly mentioned the sweeping landscape shots that appear in every issue of this title so far, which is something I wanted to talk about before, but somehow never was able to work into a post. First, I think these landscapes shots are beautiful and also necessary for the creation of the world our heroes our inhabit. As a new reader to this title, I have little to no idea what this whole Kingdom of Amethyst is all about so I need a few pointers to help me understand what kind of a place this is that Amaya has been taken to. Luckily, Lopresti and Saiz seem to understand this and provide the reader with ample visual ques to help establish where we are and what kind of land it is.

These grandiose visuals also help set the tone of Sword of Sorcery. This isn’t a title that’s simply about the squabbles that exist among royal families, hell it’s not even limiting itself to one city like a lot of titles. Sword of Sorcery is dealing with intrigue and high adventure that is similar in scope to such huge epics as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. The art in these issues, and establishing shots such as the one seen above, help us understand that the action of this comic takes place on a grand scale.

One last thing I’ve noticed about this title which I would like to bring up is the number of women who are in power in Marx’s universe. In this issue we see that Lady Senshe is the leader of House Citrane and the Great Archive which by my count brings the number of women leaders in this title to three, which is one more than the male leaders we have been introduced to at this point. In an industry that is so frequently male dominated both narratively and creatively, it is refreshing to see a female writer give so much power and development to female characters while having that power feel both natural and appropriate. Further, these female leaders are not simply paragons — they all have diverse aspects to their characters and each has their own unique motivation. While this might not seem commendable in itself at first, try reading Catwoman or the Moloch installment of Before Watchmen and see if that changes your mind.

Also poor Beowulf. I never give it its proper due since it’s crammed in with Sword of Sorcery, but man, it really is fun. Seeing that Grendel is made from the same stuff of characters from other titles is so much fun. Also, I love seeing arms growing out of stomachs.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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26 comments on “Sword of Sorcery 2

  1. I didn’t even think about the high volume of powerful ladies in this title. It’s great that we have strong female heroes AND villains; I’d hate for this to be some sort of “women are good, men are bad!” stereotype.

    • I could see how some people might view it that way, since House Diamond (or House Wrigleyville) is all men and obviously the primary antagonist at this point. But that’s why I think that scene with Hadran is important, it prevents stereotypes from happening. Again, Marx knows what she is doing. If she made every male character a jerk then she would be just as bad as those authors who write one dimensional females, but she’s too smart for that.

  2. So, Ryan Higgins was talking bout this title being cancelled at issue 8 or 12. I haven’t seen that suggested anywhere else, so he’s clearly just conjecturing, but he definitely has a better sense of the numbers than I do. That would be too bad — this title is so fun! I totally agree that it’s one of the best values on shelves right now, with both a solid lead AND backup. I hope it sticks around longer than that!

    • If this title were to be cancelled I would be so god damn angry! However, I could see how this title might not be the most popular since at a quick glance it seems like a title designed for girls, what with all the ladies and the purple flying around. But, as we’ve stated numerous times on this site, this isn’t the case! It’s weird that people wouldn’t be willing to give this title a go since it’s obviously one of the better titles going at this point, hopefully what we’re writing has at least changed a couple minds.

      • I’m not too too worried about this series getting cancelled. I would be upset if it was, but DC’s pretty good about giving their books a chance to flourish. Also, we’ve seen people like Lemire being good to this series’ characters – I would guess that the JLD Annual lead a lot of those readers over to this series. Further, there’s a big internet fan community around this series. We’re linked to from a bunch of different review round-ups, so obviously a lot of people care about Amethyst.

        That said, I will keep an eye out when November numbers come out.

        • I would agree with all of that, except that if the numbers do poorly for the book I actually see Lemire’s use of the characters as a convenient excuse of the company to shelve the book because she’d still have the occasional home in that team book. The precedent I’m thinking of here is the migration of O.M.A.C. into Justice League International, and how they shoehorned Blue Beetle right into the last issue when it was being decided to end his solo book. The book was a revolving door of characters anyway, but what was the reason for sticking him and Olympian into the last issue? Could they possibly have known about Threshold back that far and were seeding it somehow? And as far as Olympian, if Justice League International was lukewarm enough to emplode after a year then what hope would Global Guardians have as a New 52 title, so why were they seeding that?

          • God damn that’s a lot of plates to spin – especially so far out from the main arms of DC’s successful series.

            The JLI annual is so weird. I didn’t read the series, but I feel like that only makes me MORE representative of those that read the annual. It was about general DCnU stuff and not about what those characters had been going through. I’m still intrigued by what happened to Booster (and the brief confrontation between Booster Old and Booster Gold), but I have literally no idea where I’m going to end up reading about that. Justice League? Phantom Stranger? Maybe in some of the Time Travel Wankery of Flash? Or similar TTW in H’el on Earth? WHERE!?

      • “at a quick glance it seems like a title designed for girls, what with all the ladies and the purple flying around.”

        As a boy (well, a really old one), I don’t read this title because the colors are grating to my delicate sensibilities. Really. I picked it up and couldn’t get past all the purple.

        I keep reading the rave reviews, and every week I go pick up an issue, and every week I get through one page and feel like I’ve been assaulted by a giant bag of sweet tarts. While that sounds appealing on the surface, it’s not as good as it seems, so I give up and accept that some titles, well written or not, are not meant for me.

        • There are some manly colors, too. House Diamond is super rugged, with their white hair streaked with black and chiseled visages.

          • I don’t want to seem like someone that is consciously saying, “Ew, purple.” I just find it visually unpleasant (even the non-purple parts). I’m not looking for ‘manly’, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have any specific grudge against purple, I just really don’t like the coloring done in the book. I honestly haven’t liked ANY of the art that you guys have shown on this blog for Sword of Sorcery.

            It’s drawn for someone with different tastes than me. That happens sometimes. Some people feel that way about Greg Land on the new Iron Man, others about Bradshaw on Wolverine and the X-Men, or Dillon (on. . . umm, Thunderbolts?).

            I do hope it succeeds and I’m still considering getting the trade (even though I think DC sucks on the timing of their paperbacks, I love that I can get some Image trades within a month of the last issue coming out).

    • (Hello everyone!) I would guess that Sword of Sorcery will probably be safe for the fifth wave (about issue 8 for this series) and maybe also for the sixth wave (where it would be at about issue 12). I looked at the numbers* for October, and these are the books selling less than Sword of Sorcery currently (not including titles already cancelled): All-Star Western, Dial H, Ravagers, Legion of Superheroes, Stormwatch, Batwing, Demon Knights, DC Universe Presents, I, Vampire, and Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Men.

      In addition, as a 3.99 title, I would also guess that it would be higher in DC’s to-keep list, although I can’t be certain. In terms of price x estimated sales, then, October’s Sword of Sorcery would also rank higher than Green Arrow, Team 7, Superboy, Birds of Prey, and Suicide Squad.

      Ironically enough, the price is what is stopping me from picking up this series (I’m waiting for the trades). While I think I would enjoy the main feature judging from reviews and previews, I don’t care enough about the back-up to follow it month-to-month. But I really hope it will continue because it seems like a really good series.

      Would anyone like to guess what the next round of cancellations will be? Of the low-selling titles in October, my main guesses, in no particular order, are pointed towards:

      DC Universe Presents, Fury of Firestorm, I, Vampire- All three have lower sales than titles that have been cancelled. DCU Presents’ anthology format would mean less ripples to the other DCU books if it is cancelled. Also, I, Vampire’s Andrew Bennet is already showing up in JLD, and I find that characters are moved into larger team books when their own series gets cancelled (Blue Bettle going onto Threshold, Grifter and Deathstroke are in Team 7).

      Batwing-Simlar to I, Vampire, Batwing is in Batman, Inc., had been incorporated into JLI previously.

      Stormwatch-seems isolated from the rest of the DCU, and the daemonite threat that could have been a sales-boosting crossover in larger titles such as Superman seems to have fizzled out (I’m not certain what happened there…)/those titles were cancelled (Voodoo, Grifter))

      Demon Knights -its setting in the past would make less ripples than a cancellation for a present-setting series. Also the possible daemonite connection suffers the same problem as Stormwatch.

      Ravagers- the more popular characters can be put into Teen Titans without too much fuss (they already met in the crossover; Raven is becoming a Titan again; I imagine fans of the TT cartoon would be happy if other characters who were in the cartoon, like Terra and Beast Boy, went to join her?) Also kind of an out-of-universe reasoning for this one, and that is that the “Young Justice” line just can’t seem to catch a break. It’s lost four titles in two waves (Hawk and Dove, Static Shock in cancellation #1, Blue Beetle, Legion Lost in cancellation #3) and it didn’t have a large number of titles to begin with. I’m not saying that cancellation was unwarranted by the company considering sales, but at this rate, Teen Titans will be the only title in there.

      *The site I go to look at sales numbers for comics is here for anyone interested: http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/2012/2012-10.html

      Tl;dr I’m looking at the sales numbers for Sword of Sorcery and I’m pretty sure it won’t be cancelled by issue 8 or 12.

      • Shockingly, the back-up is also excellent – Tony Bedard may be slouching a bit on Blue Beetle, but his work with Beowulf (and that whole medieval-post-apocalypse world) is really fun to read. I think T and Shelby mention it above, but I would happily read a full-length book of either of these stories.

        But I’ll play along with this “Guess Who’s Going to Get Cancelled” game. I’d like to see Batwing cancelled – the series just doesn’t work, and anyone trying to fix it would have to dig out of an awkward Judd Winick shaped hole. Ravagers also makes sense to me, for all the reasons you mentioned (also, it’s not very good).

        It’s interesting that there seems to almost be a Team 7 curse. That title is doing poorly, as are Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey (both of which feature characters from Team 7), and obviously Grifter, who has already been announced as cancelled. It’s too many teams!

        Also, too bad there’s no chance of a Catwoman mercy killing.

          • It also had the benefit of being the first Marvel NOW! issue and the only NOW! issue released that week – it’s comparable in a way to Justice League #1 (although that comparison is, admittedly, a *little* unfair since the only other issue DC published at all that week was Flashpoint #5)

        • (Hello Patrick!) Oh, I’m not concerned about the quality of the story in the back-up (it’s not something I can judge because I’ve not read it yet, but I trust you guys when you say something’s good!) it’s just that its setting does not entice me enough to buy issues before the trades (especially since some comic series I follow, I end up I falling in love with, and I will buy trades for physical copies in addition to my normal digital issues so I can find out what happens month-to-month). It’s a little like my attempt to get into the GL books (attempted with GL: New Guardians) where it was an interesting arc, but the space setting wasn’t doing it for me (same reason why the latest arc of Red Hood and the Outlaws fell flat).

          Yeah, I guess it’s odd how things that aren’t directly involved with the writing quality/storyline/main conflict, like setting (or color! Hi kaif1!) can shift a series from will-pick-it-up to will-wait-for-trades. Kind of like eating something, and it tastes delicious, but you find the consistency too thick.

      • My gut tells me that Ravagers, Batwing, and I, Vampire are the most likely victims, and I would suspect there would be a fourth cancellation, but I find that fourth one harder to guess at; I think Legion will dodge the bullet because of Levitz’ pull within the company and his long history on the title. Similarly, I think Dial H is probably okay due to the Karen Berger connection and how well her Vertigo talent (Snyder, Lemire) and characters (Constantine, Swamp Thing, Animal Man) have benefited the New 52 – they kind of owe her one. Stormway may be saved because of Jim Lee’s pull within the company (yes, I know other WildStorm titles have been chopped, but Stormwatch/Authority was practically their flagship – a REALLY bad sign for the WS legacy if that gets the chop.) Demon Knights might be saved because hot upcoming writer Vendetti is taking over and they’ll want to give him a chance (and X-O Manowar is so freaking good). DC Universe Presents may rebound since I believe the current arc is suffering from a current lack of interest in both the characters Black Lightning and Blue Devil as well as writer Marc Andreyko (nobody has posted a single message on his Jinxworld forum in, like, half a year.)

        I guess I would narrow the fourth cancellation down to All-Star Western (despite the apparant quality of the current series, the Jonah Hex character may be getting the ‘toxic’ label from editorial soon. He got a new series released at the height of a DC sales spike and a movie just prior and STILL isn’t doing much in the numbers) and also Fury Of Firestorm (turbulant creative team changes, lukewarm-to-little interest in Jurgens from new readership, and editorial mercilessly cancelled his JLI and even hijacked his final issue after they gave him the walking papers… ouch!

        • It’s kind of unreasonable to expect WildStorm titles to draw the same numbers as DC favorites. I expect they got some kind of boost from increased visibility, but I doubt their core audience has grown to anything like the size of even a mediocre DC title.

          • Exactly. I also think it’s a problem to stick a team that is basically a deconstruction of Justice League into a universe where the JL actually exists. That’s what makes me worry that DC might not be above moving those Watchmen characters out of their world and into the DCnU

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