Today the first issue of Sword of Sorcery came out, and since it features the latest incarnation of Amethyst Princess of Gemworld I of course bought it on Comixology as soon as I came home for work. Let’s hear it for same day print and digital comic releases! They are a glorious thing! The actual content in Sword of Sorcery was far less glorious, resulting in a comic that could only charitably be called problematic.
I’m someone who has invested a fair amount of time writing about Amethyst. I own the two maxi-series and the later mini-series. I’ve hunted down Amethyst’s later unfortunate appearances in bad 90s crossover storylines and tracked random references to her when they pop up in Legion of Super-Heroes. As a fan of the character, I was honestly a bit disappointed when the original creators of Amethyst weren’t involved or consulted in any way for the relaunch. But putting aside my fannish feelings, I wanted to see if I could go ahead and just enjoy Sword of Sorcery 0 as an entertaining comic, one that incorporates Amethyst into a new story. I genuinely wanted to give this comic a chance, but the positive aspects of the comic were completely overshadowed by an extremely poor plot choice.
Sword of Sorcery starts by introducing Amy Winston in a fairly typical coming-of-age scenario. Amy is a misfit at school with her dyed hair and odd interest in gemstones. She bonds a little bit with a mousy girl named Beryl, who doesn’t have much time for making new friends because she was just asked by a football player to meet him “behind the end zone bleachers” after the game. It is the Eve of Amy’s 17th birthday and her day doesn’t go very well since she winds up in her mobile home with her mom consuming a sad slice of carrot cake, and then is forced to train with swords and shields out in front getting wacked in the head in the process. Sensibly deciding that swordplay and mobile homes does not a make a festive celebration, Amy heads back to school to prevent a gang of football players from raping Beryl and thus establishes herself as a Strong Female Character after she beats up three jock wannabe rapists. Amy goes back to her mobile home and her mother announces that they can finally travel to Amy’s true home. In Nilaa, Lady Mordiel is gathering power for House Amethyst by inhaling her younger second cousin. Amy’s mother takes her through a portal, and they are both transformed into attractive blonde purple-wearing ladies! A group of friendly people greets them, but a fight soon breaks out as Lady Mordiel’s hunters appear to break up any semblance of a homecoming party.
In 2012 it just seems sad that I have write about rape in an Amethyst comic 13 years after Women In Refrigerators was founded. Amethyst is on that list for the following reasons, “blinded, merged with Gemworld, destroyed in LSH; became a power-hungry witch in Book of Fate.” All of those things happened to Amethyst when she was written by people who weren’t the original creative team of Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon. While Amethyst herself wasn’t raped in this comic, Amy’s rescue of Beryl is a very lazy way of establishing her character. Rapes happen in comics all the time, either to or around female characters. Christy Marx was quoted as saying that the original premise of Amethyst as a 13 year-old-girl in a woman’s body had been “done,” so if she is so sensitive to cliches why on earth would she decide to make a foiled rape attempt a centerpiece of this comic? I think there are around 20 pages of Amethyst story, and roughly 5 pages are dealing with the rape in some fashion – set-up, beatdown, and aftermath. I am so tired of seeing athletes portrayed as rapists too. If you have to have an attempted rape in your comic, let it be either genuinely required by the narrative or at least let it be a different type of attempted rape than a cursory scene readers would have encountered over and over again if they read mainstream superhero comics. This entire scene existed so Amy could be seen as heroic. Nothing was shown from Beryl’s point of view, and I wonder if she’ll even appear in this comic again. So what was the point?
The attempted rape scene in Amethyst completely overshadowed the positive elements of the comic. Aaron Lopresti’s art was very nice. Nilaa doesn’t have the interesting surreal elements that were present in Ernie Colon’s Gemworld, but the setting looks very mineral-rich and fantasy-esque. I was amused by the fact that there were so many blonde women from House Amethyst running around and about to be at war with each other. There were elements of humor that I would have appreciated in the comic if wasn’t so annoyed by the rape attempt. Amy’s reaction to her blond hair was great, and I enjoyed the way she has a tendency to fling herself into battle. When you only have 20 pages to establish your comic, choosing what you will include becomes so important. If I was reading 50 pages of this new Amethyst comic, the rape thing wouldn’t have stood out in my mind but I have to evaluate what is in front of me. I genuinely wanted to enjoy the first issue of Amethyst in twenty-five years, but I can’t think of this as an Amethyst comic. It is a football player rape comic that happens to feature a lot of blond ladies wearing purple.
PS: The back-up adaptation of Beowulf has gorgeous art and is very intriguing. No Rape!
PPS: Remember that the original maxiseries of Amethyst is being released in a showcase edition! Buy that! There’s no rape in that either!
(ETA: I’m reminded there are two panels of attempted rape. Perhaps Marx is just calling back to the original series with attempted rape in the first issue. Sort of an odd choice to include attempted rape and not Dark Opal!)
PPPS: I think the absolutely adorable version of Amethyst in animated form is going to be on the Cartoon Network this weekend? I think it is fair to assume that there will be no rape in that!