Amala’s Blade #0, by Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas, has the intimidating task of introducing us to the main character, teasing at her backstory and the plot ahead, and introducing us to the art style, and doing all of it in a way that makes the reader come back for more after this self-contained story. For a non-established superhero (or Joss Whedon-touched, I suppose) comic, it is vital to hook in readers and leave them with enough interest and questions to come back next time and see where the storyline goes. With its intriguing female lead, clever (if a little clichéd at times) writing and lovely artwork, it’s certainly hooked me in… and not just because of pirates. Really.
I hadn’t heard of Amala’s Blade prior to seeing it on the list of to-be-reviewed comics, but a quick google search intrigued me; after all, I have a well-known weakness for pirates, sci-fi, and anything even remotely steampunk. Issue #0 did not disappoint and left me even more interested for the series proper. While the story was excellent, some of the dialogue did cause me to cringe, mainly because it felt very much like forced action-hero nonsense (the biggest offender being the line “Who’s the dog now, bitch?!” as an enemy falls at Amala’s feet). That said, I can overlook a few cheesy lines in light of the interesting sneak peeks at the plot and the well-done introduction to Amala’s mind and the cast that inhabits it.
You may notice I said “cast that inhabits it”. That’s not a mistake; there is indeed a cast that inhabits Amala’s mind. The ghosts of her past quite literally follow her around and, even as she recognizes they’re in her head, have conversations with her that tease at the past. The basic gist is that Amala was selected as a spiritual leader to unite two warring factions, the Modifiers (big on technology) and the Purifiers (much less so). It’s very reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, as the solicitation noted, but I get the feeling Amala’s journey will involve a lot less childish-albeit-endearing gags and a lot more stabbing people through the gut. With any luck it’ll also do a far better job addressing the Modifier vs. Purifier conflict than A:tLA’s sequel, The Legend of Korra, and seeing if that hope is rewarded is one of the reasons I will definitely keep following this series.
One of the things that stood out to me is that Amala’s gender isn’t emphasized. I’m always looking for well-treated female leads in the comic book ‘verse, and I’m optimistic about Amala. Since this is only the first issue, I can’t predict whether it will continue to be relatively unimportant, but I look forward to seeing how her characterization progresses and seeing how other characters react to her as they’re introduced. Amala’s design is rather refreshing as well. There’s no gratuitous cleavage or ridiculously revealing armor, and the design seems quite practical for an assassin. In fact, part of her design struck me as particularly clever: her sword, which she only uses once she loses her gun over the side of the pirate ship, is tied back to her with a bright blue ribbon so she can yank it back even if it’s knocked out of her hands. Incorporating a somewhat feminine item (a blue ribbon) as a useful and visually appealing trait? Color me pleased.
|I mean, let's just look at how cool Amala looks. And if that glowing figure in the last panel doesn't intrigue you I don't know what will. This promo also does not do justice to the atmospheric backgrounds used throughout. (Art from Michael Dialynas's deviantART, which you should definitely check out to get a feel for his excellent style.)|
Jeni Hackett, aka Science Whyzard, wants a cool sword tethered to her by a ribbon like Amala's. When she's not fangirling over badass female leads in steampunk/sci-fi settings, she enjoys writing about physics and space exploration and playing far too many Bioware games for her emotional well-being. You can find her on twitter under the name @allonsyjeni, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on tumblr at hellomynameisgeek.