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Sword of Sorcery #0

(DC; US: Nov 2012)

By the end of “Homecoming”, the opening chapter of the main story in Sword of Sorcery #0, Hellblazer John Constantine shows up in the Californian wilderness, seemingly by accident and roguish-as-ever pockets the magical Amethyst crystal staked into the ground. Constantine’s appearance only seems accidental. Even if he himself hadn’t intended to arrive at exactly that moment, his synchronicity-magic works to always benefit him directly. And as is almost always the case, to injure someone else. In this instance, Constantine’s theft of the crystal traps Amy (protagonist of the “Amethyst: the Catalyst” main story) and her mom in the distant world of Nillaa. The crystal was their anchor point to Earth, and quite possibly their only way home.


Amy and her mother are both of true royal blood, daughters of the House of Amethyst, and wielders of magical powers that is expressed in their very genetic makeup. Political machinations just prior to Amy’s birth have necessitated her mother’s self-exile to Earth. Amy, consequently, is as much an Earth-girl, as much an American teenager, as any of her peers. She knows nothing of her true magical heritage on Nillaa. Except of course for her mom always training her in this weird Mixed Martial Arts that involves Ancient Greek swords and shields.


Skillfully, series regular writer Christy Marx, shields us from exactly what those political machinations were, over the course of the first issue. The joy in reading Sword of Sorcery will lie in reading the book over the course of months. The full scope of the political machinations will be unfolded gradually, and with the first issue as indicator, will draw us into a world every bit as Machiavellian as HBO’s hit Game of Thrones.


What “Homecoming” does however show, is the effects of these generations-old machinations on both sides of the divide; Amy the American teen who will become Amaya on her return to Nillaa, her mother who is ever-vigilant in the protection of her fugitive family, and Lady Mordiel, Amaya’s Aunt who’s usurped the Amethyst Throne and installed herself at the head of a vicious reign of terror. With her own blood-connection to the Amethyst power less than ideal, Mordiel makes a standing offer of blood-money—a sort of tax rebate from the Throne for families who offer up their own daughters with some blood connection to the Amethyst power.


It is a vicious tyranny made all the more sinister when visualized through the exceptional art of Aaron Lopresti. What Lopresti offers is an unambiguous surface, a clean veneer of a society of high art and great achievement, egalitarian, open, perhaps even teetering on democratic. Of course Mordiel is working to bring about the decay of this culture, that on the surface of it, still seems deeply honest and protective of its denizens.


Just as George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones (or at least the popularized HBO version of it), becomes an anchor point for us to understand Amaya and her struggle to integrate into Nillaa, so too does Amaya’s story offer us a unique anchor point into the New DC Universe. In so much as Amy herself is a beautiful inversion of the Superman mythos. Not only because of the more superficial differences that cast her as having magic-based powers and being a girl. But the deeper differences that see her as being American first, and then thrust into both a fantasy world and into superpowers.


After the embassy bombings and the anti-America hate speech of recent weeks, Sword of Sorcery seems politically prescient, perhaps unintentionally so. But the idea of an American teen carrying those values she’s lived with her entire life into a wholly alien world, begins to feel very much like the 2008 campaign. The equation was simple then, and it remains so now; that the new narrative that’s called for now is diplomacy rather than global security, and that the bigger ideas will always win out.

Rating:

AB-, ENTJ, PhD: shathley Q is deeply moved by the emotional connection we build with our perpetual fictions, and hopes to answer for that somehow, somehow. He holds a Doctorate in Literary and Cultural Theory. His writings have appeared in Joss Whedon: the Complete Companion and Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men, as well as regularly on PopMatters. Like a kid in a china shop, he microblogs as @uuizardry on Twitter. Or hit him up directly on shathleyq@popmatters.com.


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