I’ll admit ( as far as genres go ) I’ve never been too much of a fan of “sword and sorcery” tales. I attribute this to having read Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” at such an early age ( and the overwhelming impact that it had on me ). It seems that any other writer that contributes to this genre either comes up with something that, to me, is too derivative of Tolkien’s work or just doesn’t quite measure up to the “Master”. My attitude going in to the S & S genre is more akin to a literary case of “been there, done that” ( in terms of my reading experience ). With the exception of the first Highlander movie and the HBO series “Game of Thrones”, I feel there’s not much the sword genre has to offer me.
Thankfully, Amala’s Blade ( created by writer Steve Horton and artist Michael Dialynas ) is so “out of the box” in its own take on the genre that it grabs your attention and keeps it. With a dash of the supernatural and technological thrown in, this is the story of female master assassin Amala from the country of Naamaron. This country has been the stage for a twenty year civil war between the city of Ouon and the city of Avatouon. The inhabitants of these two cities are separated by their use of technology. While the Purifiers of Ouon utilize the technological applications of steam-powered engines, the Modifiers of Avatouon have taken their adoration towards technology on step further, virtually living as cyborgs through implants. As the story opens, Amala has once again completed a contract kill……but not quite with the low profile her customer, the Vizier of the Neutral Territory, wishes. Realizing she has become more of a liability, the Vizier hires her for another contract, a job that clearly has “suicide mission” written all over it. Luckily, for Amala, she has unlikely allies in both the real and spirit world to watch her back. And for the mission that lies ahead of her….she’s going to need them.
Right off the bat, writer Steve Horton throws us in the action. What makes that action easy to follow is artist Michael Dialynas’ artwork and panel structuring. The art is beautifully rendered and the elements in the picture do not crowd the panels. I cannot say the same for some artists in Marvel or DC who feel the need to throw everything at us including the kitchen sink ( with the kitchen sink blocking most of the action ). I don’t know why these so-called big name talents feel the need to over-render everything to the point of confusion. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an artist balance the foreground and background as competently as Dialynas has in this issue alone. The variety in the looks of the individual characters and panel perspective is also a standout for me.
Writer Steve Horton has succeeded in capturing my interest because he utilizes a valuable writing device: setting the story within a small geography. One of the drawbacks I find to reading stories in the sword and sorcery genre is having to memorize all the vast number of locations that writers feel the need to throw at me. It gets hard to keep track of every character and every action when it is played out on too broad of a canvas. With this title, Horton has let the characters define the borders. An epic can be played out just as well in yards than in miles. A strong first issue and one that I’d recommend following.
Writer: Steve Horton
Artist: Michael Dialynas
Colorist: Michael Dialynas
Cover Artist: Guy Davis
Publication Date: April 24, 2013
Format: FC, 32 Pages
UPC: 7 61568 22079 7 00121