“Sword of Sorcery #8 by Christy Marx, Christy Marx, Aaron Lopresti, Travis Moore and John Livesay is the final issue of the DC New 52’s fantasy anthology. The backup stories of “Beowulf” and “Stalker” were previously concluded, so the entire issue is devoted to the wrapping up the final storyline of “Amethyst,” in which Eclipso invades Nilaa, the Gemworld, and is determined to unite the power of all houses under his rule.
Despite having the whole of “Sword of Sorcery” to itself for the first (and last) time, the final chapter of “Amethyst” feels rushed and compromised, probably inevitably so. Marx tries to provide a satisfying conclusion in thirty pages, but “Eclipsed!” has too much going on for the pacing to work.
From a thematic standpoint, Marx stays true to the heart of the series: Amaya’s coming of age, power and family and Amaya’s relationship with Graciel, her mother. Amaya is the heroine, and in “Sword of Sorcery” #8, she gets to slay the dragon in an impressive full-page spread by Lopresti. It is Amaya’s plan and leadership that turn things around. Everything falls in place too easily, with the motley collection of Amaya’s team each playing their assigned parts and Graciel suddenly ceding leadership to Amaya, but the convergence of friends and family around Amaya is nevertheless emotionally satisfying, if unrealistic.
For the most part, “Sword of Sorcery” #8 is too rushed for Marx to show off her strengths of characterization and dialogue. The battle dialogue is full of overused lines like “Stand Strong! We won’t fail you.” As an antagonist, Eclipso was much more interesting in previous issues. In “Sword of Sorcery” #8, he is reduced to two-dimensional, cartoon villain shouting lines like, “No! Impossible!”
In earlier issues of “Sword of Sorcery,” Marx balanced the over-the-top landscape and mythology of Nilaa with Amaya’s outsider status. This unusual dynamic — of being ironic without being mocking — allowed Marx to celebrate the inherited outrageousness of Gemworld without taking epic fantasy tropes too seriously.
In “Eclipsed!” that subtle balance is out. While it’s nice to get all the characters in the same room and to see all the Gem Houses in play, the result is that “Amethyst” goes into highly cheesy territory that makes it hard to take the plot seriously. There is no real suspense. While “Amethyst” could never be classified as realistic, “Sword of Sorcery” #8 requires more indulgence and suspension of disbelief from the audience than ever before. Disappointingly, the open-ended “ensemble shot” final page feels predictable and stale, both in the visuals and the writing.
Besides the thematic consistency and snippets of dialogue, the saving grace of “Sword of Sorcery” #8 is Lopresti’s art. He can draw crowded, three-dimensional battle scenes where the page still feels clean and elegantly clear despite the number of moving bodies. I’m also impressed by Lopresti’s consistent attention to facial expressions and clothing. As usual, Hi-Fi’s brilliant colors complement Lopresti’s clean lines and his exaggerated, vivid color palette is crucial to the look of “Amethyst.” Travis Moore and John Livesay are also listed as artists, but there is only one page that doesn’t contain Lopresti’s characteristic line. The shift in art is perceptible, but so brief that it doesn’t pull the reader out of the story too much.
“Sword of Sorcery” #8 gets the job done of concluding out the Eclipso storyline and allowing the reader to say goodbye to Gemworld and the characters (for now). There are glimpses of everything that made “Amethyst” fun and different, most of those aspects aren’t at their best. Ultimately, it’s a bittersweet but still worthwhile read for those who have steadily followed the story, like one last visit to a well-loved but run-down neighborhood before it’s torn down.