Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Sword of Sorcery 1, originally released October 17th, 2012.
Shelby: It seems a common element of fantasy is the quest for power. You’ve got multiple countries, or cities, or houses, or whatever, all scrambling for as much power as they can get. In Dune, the power comes from control of the geriatric spice melange. In Game of Thrones, the power is in owning land and controlling trade. Amethyst seems a little different: the power is in your blood, is literally passed from generation to generation. This isn’t a power that can be bartered for, or distributed through a treaty; there appears to be one way to obtain more power in Gemworld, and it is a bloody one.
We left Amy and her mom in the middle of a battle against a group of Hunters. Amy makes her first kill, and is understandably freaked out by it. Things are not looking good for our heroes, when Graciel channels some purple power, and creates dozens of amethyst spikes, which shoot up out of the ground and skewer all of their enemies. Meanwhile, Mordiel (current ruler of House Amethyst) knows her sister and niece have returned, and is hot on their trail. Amy learns she is actually Princess Amaya, and meets Ingvie, princess of house Citrine and leader of their rescue party. We also meet the men of House Diamond, who appear to be the assholes of the group. They’re strong, harsh, and looking to align themselves with whichever side is winning. Amaya, Graciel, and the warriors of Citrine hop a portal to…somewhere, leaving a message behind for Mordiel, asking for a peaceful solution.
The premise of this book is really simple. You’ve got two members of a major house fighting for control, with various alliances between the other major and minor houses taking place in the background. Simple or no, this book is a lot of fun to read. I love the connection to gemology and precious stones; it makes sense, of COURSE Amethyst and Diamond would be major houses and Citrine would be minor. Who the hell has ever heard of a citrine anyway? Christy Marx has me excited for not only the big drama of power and allegiances between the houses, but also the personal drama between Graciel and Mordiel. Was it only the hunger for power that drove them apart? Mordiel strikes me as particularly cruel with her “do anything for power” nature, but she also seems to feel conflicted, and maybe even misses her family?
As intriguing as Marx’s story is, it’s the art that really seals the deal on this title. Artist Aaron Lopresti and colorist HI-FI knock it out of the park, especially HI-FI. We’re dealing with a world that literally sparkles, and he perfectly capture that glittering, gem-stone quality. But what I really like is seeing those glittering colors paired with Lopresti’s sometimes gruesome art.
I love this. The pencils are clean, the juxtaposition of gore and shiny magic is great, and that is just fucking badass. Definitely puts the nail in the coffin of the “this is a kid-friendly title” theory.
I could go on and on about this, but I want to talk about Beowulf a little bit before I turn this over to my pal Taylor. The story continues as you would expect; Beowulf and Wiglaf make their way to Heorot, stopping to fight some Waynetech robot monsters along the way. The king feasts them when they arrive, but Beowulf is too busy prepping for Grendel to party. That night, Wiglaf is keeping watch when the monster itself sneaks up on him, and that monster is both grotesque and intriguing.
This is just a good ol’ fashioned action/horror story, and I love every panel of it. Grendel is clearly a disgustingly modified monster version of our “hero” Beowulf. As excited as this makes me for the Grendel vs. Beowulf showdown, it makes me even more excited for the Grendel’s mother vs. Beowulf boss battle. This, paired with the Waynetech mechas roaming the countryside, makes me wonder who exactly the creator of this monster is, and what sort of connection she has to the universe we already know. I’m not trying to imply that this is going to tie to current continuity at all, but we’re obviously dealing with a dystopian future version of the current DCU. I am also more convinced now that Beowulf is some extra-enhanced, preserved version of Deathstroke, which leads me back around to wondering how Grendel came to be. I never would have dreamed a writer could mash together Vikings and robots in a way that worked; Tony Bedard has done some very impressive story-telling with this backup.
Taylor, what did you think of this issue? Are you as interested as I am in the machinations of Gemworld? Is the Beowulf backup story just as cool as I think it is? Did you see that panel where Beowulf was cutting guys in half?!?
Taylor: Oh, Shelby, did I see him with that cut. But first…
…Gemworld is proving quite interesting itself. While I’m surprised we left Earth so soon after we were first introduced to it, I can’t say I’ve missed it at all. The events and people of Gemworld have pulled me in to such an extent that I sometimes forget about the opening sequence on Earth altogether, even though I am sure we will revisit it. From the very beginning of issue two we are thrust right back into an action sequence that feels fast paced, but not at all hurried. I think what really makes this possible is the clean ordering of the panels and the straight lines of the gutters, which help to present the battle in a clear and cinematic fashion. While others might be tempted to go with more messy patterns to reflect the chaos of battle, Lopresti and HI-FI have chosen to rely on their vibrant coloring and kinetic penciling to bring the battle to life. Take a look at these two pages as a full page spread. The design is simple, yet engrossing:
Compare that to an action sequence from Beowulf. Here we have staggered panels and images bleeding into one another, creating a different vibe entirely And while both styles have their merits there is something I find most appealing about the orderly panels of Sword of Sorcery.
But it’s not just the art and action I find interesting in this issue. The reveal that there are multiple houses in Gemworld, while not the most original idea, is one that is interesting and adds an instant, and unlimited, amount of depth to the Sword of Sorcery universe. I already love House Diamond and I’m looking forward to finding out just how big of an asshole each of them is. Within a short scene we are introduced to four Diamond-Heads, two of which appear to be jerks straight off the bat while the other two believe the previous are plotting to kill them. These are interesting family dynamics to say the least and quickly lets us know what type of people we are dealing with. That and they all have great hair, damn it.
The reveal that Mordiel is not the the cold hearted bitch we all thought she was is a nice touch as well; we already have Cersei Lannister for that anyway. It also helps to reminds us that there are always two sides to a conflict, each with their motivations and reservations.
Shelby, I think it’s totally okay to assume that Beowulf is as cool as we think it is. I mean Beowulf (the character) has a bionic eye! The fact that this is all set in a dystopic future just draws me in even more. The reveal that the “monsters” of this world are made by Waynetech Industries helped to drive my interest deeper, however, and has me wondering what the hell happened to society to make it revert to viking ideals. And what exactly is Beowulf? He’s obviously high-tech, but his weapon of choice is a sword; he’s obviously from a more advanced age, but he’s known to the less-developed people of post-apocalyptic Earth. Regardless of where he came from or who he is, his killing skills are amazing. The art of Jesus Saiz really drives this point home. When his Beowulf kills, he doesn’t mess around. He does it quick and clean.
Not even any blood! Yet while there may be no blood seen here, that doesn’t mean it’s not in this series or Sword of Sorcery, both metaphorically and literally. I for one, hope to see more of it in both ways.
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?