DC dips into the fantasy market with this New 52 entry, with an A-story about Amethyst (somewhat familiar to previous titular versions) and a B-story about Beowulf (somewhat similar to Kamandi + OMAC, i.e. it’s a Kirby pastiche). The innovations, such as they are, are attempts to update such high-concept properties for the current audience. The artistic choices are solid, leading to a very good-looking book.
On Amethyst Aaron Lopresti is an old hand at depicting strong women (having had long runs on Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel); and while Jesus Saiz also excelled on the vigilante Manhunter series, in Beowulf he’s in an all-male world of violence so far. Both artists share solid skills with anatomy and are gifted storytellers, and both do their best to make the whole package an entertainment bargain. The writing, however, unlike the artists, is so far too reliant on the familiar.
Marx has almost too many influences to corral for Amethyst. It’s a high school nerd story, a “my parents aren’t human” fantasy, and an initiation ritual for an adolescent all rolled into one. Shades of everything from Stephen King to Harry Potter to recent and current fable-filled TV shows and fairy tale movies. These all seem to have determined her decision to make Amy Winston a troubled outsider, but it’s not that believable she’d make it to 17 without really knowing about any of the secrets her mom is hiding. Luckily we drop most of the pretenses of their normal lives fairly quickly and get over to Niall, where Amy has an evil aunt to make Charlize Theron proud, already on the prowl for her.
Everything is set up to advance the story in a variety of directions, while heaping on the sword and sorcery, but it’s pretty formulaic at this point. The most interesting part of the first issue is a jarring scene of near-rape, where the current worries over bullying get taken to a frightening extreme on the high school field, until Amy’s inner warrior saves her foolish new friend.
That level of darkness is in the second tale from the start, but in this macho story of horseback adventure seekers poking into abandoned war stations, the dark tone is in the form of violence, that literally explodes out of the darkness and begins dismembering everyone. Their executioner is Beowulf, a cyborg who is just a little bit Wolverine, a little bit Cable, maybe a whole lot of Deathlok. I suppose his fatalistic nature is a little more Marvel than DC thus far, as his kid sidekick isn’t there to make him cuter, but to wonder when he might escape from this latest captor. Of course we’re building up to who or what his foe Grendel might be in this futuristic post-apocalypse tale, but the best thing going for it isn’t the clichéd first-person narration; it’s that level of imminent danger and destruction. Body parts are flying across the page.
As dark as these titles are, I’d rather see them go even darker than settle into the predictable clichés that have thus far been the extent of the plot movement. The characters (save for the overloaded Beowulf) are blank slates that need to be filled in fast.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.