Source: preview copy
Amala’s Blade: Spirits of Naamaron TPB
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writter: Steve Horton
Artist: Michael Dialynas
You know what it’s like, it’s Friday, somehow all of your bosses are out of the office, a bad case of senioritis comes over you, and you look for anything else but work to do. Luckily for me, I have an iPad with a ton of comics for me to read, and I had just loaded Amala’s Blade: Spirits Of Naamaron on to it last night.
Sweet! Read a free trade behind my computer screen then write up a RUview to make it look like I am doing work. Isn’t technology great? And, I must say, as a time waster, Amala’s Blade: Spirits Of Naamaron made my work day better.
But not great.
As I was reading Amala’s Blade it struck me that this might be the first time that I’ve read / watched / listened to a story where I liked every character I was supposed to, disliked the bad guys, and still felt rather…meh about the story itself. As a writer, Steve Horton *gets* characters, he knows how to write them, introduce them, and make the readers respond to them appropriately. From the very start I liked Amala. Yes, she’s a seemingly remorseless assassin, but she’s got spunk, and (to paraphrase Pulp Fiction) spunk goes a long way. Along the way we meet some of Amala’s friends, and I think I’d like to sit down and have a beer with them. Her enemies are dicks, and I’m glad she killed (some of) them. The problem is the parts where she is doing things that are not associated with character development.
Amala’s Blade is an odd imagining of what would happen if a female Snake Eyes was trained by the Saint Of Killers, given The Sixth Gun, and then tossed into some weird steampunk civil war that is never really explained in the book proper. And that is one of the primary problems with the book; the reader is introduced to this world in “the middle” of the story and is never given the opportunity to “catch up.” The world (country / continent?) of Amala’s Blade recently came out of a civil war between the Purifiers and Modifiers and there is still a lot of bad blood between the two sides. Or the civil war is still going on. Again, it’s not really clear. From later pages it seems like there is some sort of peace accord, but there are still anti-Modifier propaganda posters hanging up in Purifier bars. As best as I can figure, the war is over for now.
Oh, are you wondering what the different sides in this war were (are) fighting over? Don’t expect an answer to that.
You want to know how Amala’s Blade creates ghosts of her victims who in turn try to help her? Nope.
Would you like me to explain…ok, you get the point.
I have no idea what the story was about. I followed the comic. I understood what got me from A to B, just not why. Even the twist at the end made very little sense in the context of not knowing why it was a twist.
The flashes of greatness in some areas and falling flat in others are not limited to the writing. Michael Dialynas’ cover to Amala’s Blade is, again, a very impressive Sixth Gun-ish piece of art. If the purpose of a cover is to make someone want to look inside a book (and it is, which is why it is ok to judge a [comic] book by its cover)
but then, on page six of the treade we see the cover to issue #0. Where the trade cover made me think of one of my favorite artists, Brian Hurtt, the image on page six reminded me of one of my least favorite artists, Humberto Ramos.
Throughout the book there is an inconsistent switch between the two styles that, luckily, favors the Brian Hurtt style more often than not, but there are those pages / panels that remind me why I am not reading Superior Spider-Man.
Amala’s Blade has a boat load of potential, and I’d gladly read a volume 2, if only to catch-up with characters I quickly grew to like. The areas where this comic falls short, exposition and art consistency are fixable. Both creators, Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas have the talent to make Amala’s Blade a story worth following. In other words, think Buffy The Vampire Slayer season one. What Horton and Dialynas need to do keep doing what they do well, characters and most of the art, but kick the rest of the attributes that make a comic book into another gear.
While not perfect, I’d recommend Amala’s Blade if you got some time to kill and want to be entertained, with hope of a better second “season.”
Amala’s Blade: Spirits Of Naamaron will be in stores and Dark Horse Comics' digital store on January 22nd.
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