(Warning: this review contains spoilers)
Way back during 2012’s Zero Month (not to be confused with next month’s “Zero Year” crossover), DC launched four new titles in its third wave of the New 52. Two of the titles, Talon and Phantom Stranger, continue to be strong contributors to the DC canon. Team 7, although it included the very popular character Deathstroke, was unfortunate to be tied to a character whose book was a cesspool (again, Deathstroke). The result was cancellation after nine issues, including #0. And even though nine issues doesn’t seem like much, it was longer than anyone expected from Sword of Sorcery.
Written by veteran scribe Christy Marx with art by Aaron Lopresti, the main feature of Sword of Sorcery was “Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld” in a resurrection of a beloved concept from the 1980s that many wrote off as a waste of a New 52 title. Why should this obscure character get her own series when we could have Booster Gold or Red Robin? And where is Wally West?! Most people did not pick up this title during its publication for a number of reasons, most notably the $3.99 price tag (this was due to there being a back-up story in every issue). Now that this series is available in trade which includes Sword of Sorcery #0-8 and DC Universe Presents #19, the pricing is much more favorable at $24.99. But is the content worth your hard earned dollars (or pounds, Euros, etc.) to pick this up?
There are few titles that are able to strike the balance between acknowledging their roles in a greater universe while also maintaining independence from the core happenings of the DCU, and that’s exactly what Sword of Sorcery delivers. While early chapters are by no means flawless, Marx’s script gives the readers the opportunity to invest heavily in these characters. Keeping with the title rewards readers with a world built from the ground up and a quality supporting cast that would make most other characters envious. The most notable guest star in the series is Constantine, and although his language is neutered from his Hellblazer days, he remains an untrustworthy, supernatural slime ball. The chapters featuring him are certainly the high points for this trade.
This is not to say that the rest of the Amethyst’s storyline is poor. Quite the contrary, actually. Readers’ enjoyment of this story grows with each passing chapter. Never does it feel like the threats are empty as the dangers presented keeps readers on edge. This is a world, which, if given the opportunity, could be fleshed out and expanded upon similar to the Green Lantern franchise in recent years.
The sense of wonder that comes from Amaya as readers join her on this journey in a new and unfamiliar land gives the entire run a great balance. At its core, the Amethyst storyline is a coming-of-age tale, and Marx hits all the right notes. Amaya must learn to cope with being thrust from our world into Gemworld and discovering she is, of all things, a princess. There are many great character moments for Amaya, such as noticing her hair color changes when she travels to Gemworld, or having a craving for pizza, which remind us that she is still your “typical” high school girl without diminishing the strength of her characterization. As the story progresses, she becomes much more assertive and confident in herself. For the amount of flack readers and critics give the Big Two for their lack of strong female characters, it’s a shame that no one gave this series a chance, as it delivered just that.
Included in this trade are DC Universe Presents #19 as well as the backup stories from Sword of Sorcery, which focus on characters Beowulf and Stalker. These stories are well done, with Tony Bedard’s Beowulf as the particular standout. However, the shift in tone from the main story is very jarring and will likely cause some readers just to stop reading. Because of how tonally different these backups are, one can see how the Sword of Sorcery title was negatively impacted by their inclusion during the publication. On their own, these stories are interesting, but as part of this collection they detract from the overall experience.
Sword of Sorcery Vol.1 represents the tragic decision making of DC’s editorial and marketing departments. Under the right circumstances (e.g. $2.99 price tag, no back-up stories, some form of marketing support), this series could have been another fantastic ongoing addition to the DC canon that advocates for diversity in comics have been clamoring to see. Alas, it currently stands as an peculiar deviation off the beaten path for DC superheroes in the New 52. With great characters, an interesting premise, and captivating art, this is definitely worth your hard earned cash.