With dinosaur chases, demonic armies and big old holes in space-time, “Swords of Sorrow” #1 dives right into the thick of things. Gail Simone and Sergio Davila create a rousing intro that makes it clear this event isn’t gunning for high-concept, but for high thrills. As relentlessly fun as it is loosely explained, “Swords of Sorrow” #1 is a speedy read that asks the audience to come along for the ride a little while. While most of its audience will be more than willing, I’m not sure if tentative readers will be convinced to pick up issue #2. Going forward, it would be great to have a stronger explanation of the central conceit and a little more time to know the characters. Still, “Swords of Sorrow” #1 is remarkably light and inviting for a big summer event.
This issue showcases many Dynamite heroines, so it was inevitable that Simone would have to skim over their bios and characters. Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, Kato and Jennifer Blood each get a few pages to show off their skills and style, while Irene Adler, Lady Zorro and Lady Greystoke are only shown receiving their swords of sorrow from the mysterious Courier. Simone manages to sketch each of those first five out neatly despite the page restrictions. The reader sees hints of each woman’s abilities and personality, and it’s easy to imagine how the team might begin to interact. Still, Sonja’s personality comes across the strongest — unsurprising given how familiar Simone is with her voice.
The central plot, however, isn’t sketched out that clearly. In order to fight the Prince and his army, the Traveller and her Courier are handing out “swords of sorrow” to their prophesied wielders but, other than that, the reader doesn’t know much. Combined with the jumping from place to place and hero to hero, it could make new readers feel a bit harried and unconvinced.
Sergio Davila’s art walks a fine line between power fantasy and — well, other fantasy. The character designs are full pulp, with a host of barely clothed and busty figures, and all the bare skin and fetish wear can feel exploitative. If that sort of costume isn’t your scene, you might not be able to enjoy “Swords of Sorrow.” However, Davila pays close attention to body language; when Jana sprints toward the reader on page 2, she’s drawn with her chin thrust forward rather than her chest, and she looks swift and determined rather than posed. Vampirella is haughty and coiled, while thoughtful, responsible Dejah Thoris almost always appears in a close-up of her face. Despite the costumes, “Swords of Sorrow” resists becoming a T&A show.
That said, I do wish Davila had a little more fluidity to his art. Some of the action looks stiff, and some of the poses are awkward. The characters don’t always bend their knees naturally, and a little flexibility in the figure work would add real verve to the fight scenes.
Colorist Jorge Sutil keeps things bright and easy. The palette in this book isn’t exactly innovative, but everything pops like a pulp book ought to. Sutil also draws some looseness out of Davila’s heavier lines.
“Swords of Sorrow” #1 is fun despite its flaws. An event book with a cast this size could easily feel bloated, but this issue never does. If the creative teams slows it down and lets its ideas marinate just a little in issue #2, the rest of the series could be a blast.