If you’re unaware, Dark Horse Comics has a neat system where they publish comics in short snippets over in Dark Horse Presents and then a few months later publish the snippets in 2 two 3 issue miniseries. The latest series to get the treatment is Amala’s Blade which featured in issues #9, #10 and #11 of Dark Horse Presents.
As a fantasy series it has plenty of competition, but it’s infused with steampunk motifs, which makes it a bit rarer on the market. Writer Steve Horton calls it “the steam punk-with-swords epic” which promises a lot, but is it good?
Amala’s Blade #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
As with any self respecting fantasy series, a proper map is necessary to catch you up on the history of the world. Tolkien introduced the idea that his books were histories and it helps ground the story but simultaneously adds some weight to them as well. It’s a hell of a lot stronger to start a character off in a world that has a complicated story. This issue opens with the map below, but also a nice explanation of what the Purifiers are all about and who their enemy the Modifiers are as well. Of course our hero is stuck somewhere in the middle.
Gotta love the topography in fantasy maps.
The protagonist is named Amala, a master assassin who also works for the Vizier, the leader of the land. There’s also some sidekick types she hangs with and she has some sort of ghost seeing power, but ultimately the strength of this series is how the Modifiers and Purifiers rule the land. After twenty years of civil war there’s a lot of animosity in the air and it adequately sets up an intriguing premise for Amala to work around.
Let there be light!
The issue opens in a bar where Amala seems to be having a drink, but of course nothing is at it seems in the fantasy genre. After the bartender screws in a long awaited modifier bulb there ends up being enough light in the bar to see a wanted poster for Amala. It’s a clever way to show how the rules of the land can affect the smallest of situations.
It’s easy to miss but note the bartender stuck with knives. Ouch.
Ultimately its revealed the politicians aren’t so keen on Amala, and her life is going to end up getting a hell of a lot harder. Said confrontation won’t hit till next issue, and really this issue is more of an introduction to the character and a hint at her powers to speak to ghosts.
As far as setups go though it’s a strong issue and it’s in large part due to Michael Dialynas’s art and color. Some might call it the acting of the characters, but I’d call it exceptional facial expressions from Dialynas. In some cases a writers dialogue is strong enough to apply it to stick figures, but here, while not bad, is made a hell of a lot stronger by Dialynas’ art. In truth every comic should be like this, because, much like film you need a good balance between visuals and writing.
- Lovely art
- Intro of character and world is solid
- It’s mostly setup
Believe me when I say it’s no easy task to introduce a new character let alone a complex world such as this. Steve Horton should be commended for how well the issue is paced, but without the great art it may not have ended up so strong.
Is It Good?
Yes. Fantasy enthusiasts rejoice, there’s a new comic that should end up on your pull list.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!