Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Sword of Sorcery 3, originally released December 19th, 2012.
Taylor: It’s the end of the year and even though Christmas has yet to happen, we are beginning to see the obligatory end of the year lists that have become a staple of most review sites. On the one hand, I find these lists to be particularly useful and interesting when I’m trying to scout out all of the media I shouldn’t have missed in the past year. On the other hand, these lists can be quite arbitrary when you consider that measuring cultural themes by a mostly pointless time span is not a valid means of assessing something’s cultural capital. Whatever your feelings are on these lists it can’t be denied that they cause us to pause and reconsider a period of time in our lives that is quickly coming to an end. It also causes us to consider where we are going in the future and all that we hope will happen. These themes of change, beginnings and endings pervade the fourth issue of Sword of Sorcery and have us wondering, just what will become of this series in the new year.
Having gained the ability to yield the magic of her house, Amaya is hard at work trying to master the new powers that her bloodline has given her at the open of this issue. However, using magic is harder than Amaya has anticipated so her mother employs the burly Elzere to help with her training. He doesn’t go easy on Amaya but it is clear that she has great power and is a quick study. Later, Amaya tells her new-found friends about the differences that exist between Earth and Gem World when her mother urgently takes her away. The reason for this sudden exit is that they are to meet Mordiel to try to broker a peace deal. After taking magical flying tigers to Amaya’s neutrally minded uncle, our heroes meet Mordiel but no peace is gained. Instead, war is declared. A little after these events the portal crystal that Amaya’s mother controls begins to glow and Amaya makes the rash decision to see who is controlling it, without waiting for her mother.
We already know that this title does action well. Several of the previous issues have been almost entirely devoted to action of some kind and it’s been thrilling to watch all of that unfold. But this obviously can’t go on forever and in this issue of Sword of Sorcery we see the comic shift its perspective. Instead of focusing on action, we see characters being fleshed out and the world of Amethyst being developed and explained. Amaya’s character development continues to please me to no end. On the one hand, Amaya is still the teenager from high school we first saw at the beginning of this series. We see this on display when she is trying to describe the meaning of the the phrase “sucks” while she is casually hanging out with those of her age in Gem World. But now we are also beginning to see her gain confidence in her new surroundings and with the new powers she has been granted. The playful banter between Amaya and Elzere is a display of Amaya’s comfort, not only with her martial skills, but also her willingness to confront new challenges. This new development in her character surfaces again at the end of the issue when she enters a portal that has been opened by an unknown stranger, making for a nice growth in her character. The Amaya of just a few issues ago would have been too timid to enter that portal and Christy Marx has down a fine job of showing how this act is part of Amaya’s growth into the hero we all know she can become.
Similarly, the world of Amethyst is being fleshed out and grown as well. In this issue we get some interesting dialogue between Graciel and Senshe concerning the origin of Gem World and its inhabitants. It turns out that everyone who lives in there came from Earth thousands of years ago and that on Earth all humans might have known how to use magic at some point. Also, there is some object called the “black diamond” that is sure to come into play later. The deepening of the Sword of Sorcery universe can only make this title all the better and I’m looking forward to the title becoming ever more dramatic when the fate of Earth and Amethyst become intertwined. Further, credit has to be given to artist Aaron Lopresti and Marx for creating a world where the addition of flying tiger-dragons not only is accepted, but fucking sweet as all hell. I want one.
Also, I would be remiss to not mention the developments in the back-up title, Beowulf. I’m still enjoying this title quite a bit and find more and more that I wish it was its own stand alone comic. With that being said, I’m continually pleased with how much intrigue and action is packed into each installment of this title. In this issue, we learn that Beowulf is indeed a super soldier whose creation was meant to counter the rising power of the ever larger amount of superheroes populating Earth.
But what happened to all of the superheroes after the man made apocalypse that sent earth back into the Iron Age? Are Superman and Wonder Woman dead? If not, where are they? And how does Beowulf play into these questions? I’m glad that this title is not content to just let itself sit on the back burner. Instead it is choosing to develop a strong narrative that so far has been a lot of fun to read.
Patrick, how do you view the developments taking place in Amethyst? Do you have any idea what this “black diamond” thing is? Do you think all humans had magic and, if that’s true, doesn’t that make them superheroes? What would Beowulf say to all that?
Patrick: The revelation that the peoples of Amethyst all came from Earth is, indeed, awesome. Sword of Sorcery already did a masterful job of avoiding this, but one my pet peeves is reading a narrative that’s stuck in a world with no reasonable connection to our own. I don’t much care for Superman stories on Krypton, because I have a hard time seeing our own lives (or any variation thereof) reflected in that world. I think — though I’d have to do some serious soul-searching to be sure — this aversion is overridden when the fantasy world is fleshed out in intricate detail. So worlds created by obsessive detailists like J. R. R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin end up drawing me in, while the slapdash worlds of any non-Earth Green Lantern tend to bore me. Not only is Amethyst shaping up to have a clear identity all it’s own, there’s the promise that the real world is just a simple portal away at all times.
But let’s talk about that Issue-Ending Portal. Are we catching up to the events of the Justice League Dark Annual? At the time we read that issue back in October, I thought it was odd how fucking competent Amaya was with that sword. Hell, at the time, I was more comfortable referring to her as “Amy” than “Amaya.” But since that time, a healthy portion of each issue of Sword of Sorcery has dealt with Amaya’s acquisition of power. Last month, she got her magic; this month, she’s training with some beefy dude with a mace. Speaking of, that character — Elzere — is awesome: he’s like a rude Frankenstein. I love the way Marx writes the relationship between them: it’s harsher than gentle ribbing, but never gets into creepy abusive territory.
As far as what the “black diamond” could be… Lord there are a lot of candidates for this thing. It sorta depends on how deeply into DC’s Big Stories you think this series will delve. My first impulse, given this title’s relationship to the concept of Magic (and the aforementioned crossover with Justice League Dark) is that the Black Diamond has something to do with the Books of Magic, which — as we recently discovered — aren’t so much magical as they are impossibly advanced alien tech. But this could also refer to the biggest McGuffin in the DCnU right now: Pandora’s Box (or the contents thereof). I’d prefer the former, as it means that this little magical corner of the universe can stay isolated a little while longer. On the flip side of that, if any series is going to make a play for a meaty role in the Next Big Crossover, I’d much rather it be this one, than like… 48 other books. (Bonus points to anyone who can guess the 3 books I’d like to actually see at the heart of the Next Big Thing.)
And as for the slightly-less-secret history that this entry in the Beowulf series gives us: that shit’s neat. Anyone that’s been following our coverage of Rotworld knows that we here at Retcon Punch LOVE it when the superheroes die. I have no reason to doubt anything the “Mother” says because it all lines up pretty well with the continuity of the New 52. She mentions Amanda Waller and Basilisk by name, and both that person and that organization are — in the present — engaged in making super soldiers to combat the meta-humans. And that alien invasion she mentioned is the subject of the first story arc in Justice League*. Prior to this ending-revelation, I thought of Beowulf as a fun whatever-story, but maybe it’s a dramatized premonition — forecasting the moment the tides turn against our favorite heroes.
It looks like Beowulf will be taking some time off:
Without doing research, I don’t know who “Stalker” is, but it excites me to think that this character could be stomping around any reality at any time. Ultimately, I have faith in this series’ ability to deliver on the promise of: I will take you to strange and beautiful places. Moreso here than anywhere else in the publishing line, I have NO IDEA what’s coming next, and I can’t wait to read it.
*It’s too bad that Darkseid’s attack on earth ends up being referred back to so frequently because it’s some of the most stale storytelling of the New 52. It’s Geoff Johns at his worst, ignoring his natural ability to build worlds and mythologies. It’s just all ego and action. Remember how many times LOST would show you the plane crash from different perspectives (the passengers’, Ben’s, Desmond’s) and it was awesome EVERY TIME? I think that’s the intended effect. Oops.
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?