Sword of Sorcery #3

In "Sword and Sorcery" #3, Christy Marx continues "Amethyst" by opening with a mother-daughter training session, similar to the ones that Graciel/Grace and Amaya/Amy had back on Earth. Marx's worldbuilding feels a little more forced in "Sword of Sorcery" #3, but new information is still casually introduced at natural points in the story through dialogue and action. It's endearing to see a heroine training with her mother, and it's also unusual in the fantasy genre, where blood parents are often done away with or left at home by the author in order not to hamper the hero or heroine's independence. Immediately afterwards, however, the story becomes more cliched as Amaya gets a new trainer, a scarred, muscular warrior named Elzere, and their training session proceeds on the more usual lines of a trainee first resisting and then impressing a cynical, masculine taskmaster.

Aaron Lopresti's body language for Amaya captures her excited gesticulation and high spirits, and his art also continues to have a fabulous attention to detail. I appreciate seeing the pits in half-eaten peaches and the subtle arch in Graciel's eyebrows that expresses her slight irritation with Lady Senshe. Lopresti and Hi-Fi obviously had fun designing the Vyala, Gemworld's human steeds, and Hi-Fi's flashy colors on the wings of Amaya's Vyala are particularly splendid. Also, in the scene where a character acquires a new power, Hi-Fi's colors signal the likely origin before Marx's dialogue confirms it.

The shift in artists between pages fifteen and sixteen is noticeable in a bad way. St. Aubin's line is softer, and suddenly all the women have the same facial shape and cheekbones. Marx's script for the last five pages is also disappointing. After all the buildup from previous issues, the scene in which Graciel, Amaya and Mordiel finally confront each other in the flesh is anticlimactic. The villainess makes more threats, but there is no physical action and no new information revealed about any characters' histories.

The closing beat to "Amethyst" in "Sword of Sorcery" #3 strikes a false, awkward note. It is obviously a lead-in to a crossover with John Constantine's storyline in "Justice League Dark," and it feels hastily tacked on. Amaya's decision to act without her mother is foolhardy and senseless, and Ingvie recklessly follows suit. Both have shown themselves to be young women of action and daring in "Sword of Sorcery" #0-2, but there is scant motivation offered to make their rash decisions believable. Furthermore, it diminishes Ingvie as a supporting character to make her follow Amaya mindlessly. On another level, these events disrupt one of the most subversive, pleasurable parts of "Amethyst" - Amaya and Graciel's intact, functional mother/daughter team relationship in a swords and sorcery fantasy. All this bodes ill for the crossover story, which is likely to slow down the worldbuilding and character development of "Amethyst" during its introductory story arc.

In the "Beowulf" backup story, Bedard and Saiz reveal their creepy version of Grendel's mother. Her sinister presence steals the show due to Saiz's fascinating combination of bloodstains, womanly figure, bald head and yellow eyes. Saiz's action scenes have unusual, exciting composition while still being easy to follow, and Bedard's story reveals some surprising links between the established DCU and Beowulf's origin.

While Wiglaf's characterization in "Sword of Sorcery" #3 proceeds on stereotypical lines, with a subdued boy stepping up into manhood after his father's death, Beowulf's sudden uncertainty adds to his characterization, as do his immediate actions and unexpected humility in the aftermath of an explosion. Bedard's wrap-up feels a little abrupt, but the humorous scene at the conclusion shows off Saiz's comedic skills.

Although still dramatically different in appearance and tone, both "Amethyst" and "Beowulf" are derived from previously established narratives, and each story also focuses on family bonds and teenagers finding their place in a world of magic and power. The two storylines continue to have unintentional but nevertheless illuminating similarities and contrasts. In "Sword of Sorcery" #3, "Amethyst" slows and stalls before a DCU crossover, but the world of "Beowulf" feels enlarged by its suddenly revealed DCU connections.

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