Sword of Sorcery #7

In "Sword of Sorcery" #7 by Christy Marx, Aaron Lopresti, Marc Andreyko and Andrei Bressan, Eclipso wreaks havoc on Gemworld/Nilaa as he seeks to unite the power of House Diamond and House Onyx under his rule, and Stalker's deal with the devil comes to a hellish conclusion.

Along with "Team 7," "Ravagers" and a couple other New 52 titles, "Sword of Sorcery" is slated for cancellation, and its last issue ships in May 2013. I didn't expect much from "Sword of Sorcery" #7 after I heard about the title's imminent cancellation. Recently, the pacing of Marx's larger storyline had faltered in the crossover with "Justice League Dark" and John Constantine's machinations. Additionally, Marx and Lopresti had to work up an image for DC's WTF cover event on top of the task of wrapping up a sprawling, potentially epic storyline.

However, Marx and Lopresti's penultimate installment, "Eclipso Unleashed," is a pleasant surprise. The action feels rushed, but it still reads remarkably well. Marx and Lopresti deliberately cover a lot of ground, but not at the expense of clarity, characterization or world-building. "Sword of Sorcery" #7 returns to the freshness and fun of the first few "Amethyst" installments. Marx's plotting is sharp and full of enjoyable dialogue and combat. There is some information dump, via a character's death, in order to get readers and the main characters up to speed about Eclipso/Lord Kaala's history and motivations, but it's relatively inoffensive, since Marx keeps the details interesting and brief. Though Marx is obviously aware of her sparse remaining page count, her compressed plotting still allows time for jokes and emotional reaction shots from the characters.

Eclipso's attack and conquest plan is predictable, but Marx and Lopresti's keep it exciting with their excellent sense of staging and drama. They successfully (re-)introduce Lord Kaala/Eclipso, Lord of the Black Diamond, as a villain, and in nearly every scene, Kaala steals the stage with his magnetic presence, tyrant's megalomania and dark humor. In particular, Kaala's handling of House Diamond demonstrates his grasp of power dynamics and intra-family tension, showing him to be a formidable enemy in brains as well as sheer power.

Impressively, Marx doesn't neglect any of her cast, keeping Preet, Elzere, Hadran, Lady Akikra and their associated Houses comfortably in play in "Eclipso Unleashed." Lopresti's background detail, expressions and panel-to-panel action are also as excellent as his best work on "Amethyst." If the finale next month continues along these lines, this incarnation of "Amethyst" will finish strong as an unfortunately short-lived but well-executed return to DC's Gemworld.

Andreyko and Bressan wrap up their backup "Stalker" story in "Hell and Back." Unfortunately, this finale is overly combat-heavy and predictable. Ten pages are filled with bloody yet chess-like maneuvers as each party tries to gain the upper hand. Of course, Stalker's deal with the twisty Devil goes inevitably even more wrong in the end. The last panel is an unoriginal horror trope. As a whole, the "Stalker" story is a derivative and forgettable Faustian horror short story.

Next month's "Sword of Sorcery" #8 will be a 30-page issue devoted solely to the "Amethyst" storyline, allowing Marx enough space to tie up Eclipso's invasion and any other loose ends. I look forward to the finale, while feeling that it's a shame that the sales on "Sword of Sorcery" weren't strong enough to keep the bright, fun world of "Amethyst" on the shelves longer.

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