Finally, the day I’ve been dreading the last few months is here. Yesterday, DC Comics released the final issue of the series Sword of Sorcery. While initially I met the series with a rather lukewarm reaction, it quickly grew to become one of my favorite monthly titles. Today, I’m not only going to review the final issue, but also offer my thoughts on the potential of this series and why it didn’t last beyond nine issues.
Sword of Sorcery #8 concludes not only the series, but also the arc starring Eclipso, also known as Lord Kalaa. Rallying an army of corrupted soldiers from Houses Diamond and Onyx, Kalaa marches straight to the gates of House Amethyst intent on wiping out his old enemies. Can Amaya and her loyal companions drive back this foe? And what will become of Nilaa whether or not they’re successful?
Reading this comic was intensely bittersweet as it was clear the creative team poured their all into this final entry. Christy Marx’s world-building was evident as she referenced not only earlier issues, but also set up possible new ideas if the series were to continue (i.e. the latent power Elzere possesses). Aaron Lopresti’s art continued its stellar quality, and HI-FI deserves some kind of medal for the insanely awesome coloring work in this series.
Sadly, even though this issue eliminated a backup story to give the conclusion more pages, parts of it still felt rushed, which is more a fault of the cancellation than the creative team. Additionally, some of the wide shots lacked enough detail to be jarring, but this was the only real flaw in the artwork this time around. Some of the dialogue also felt contrived, but given that Marx is still a relative newcomer to comics this is partly excusable.
Sword of Sorcery was a series with tons of potential. Christy Marx succeeded in setting up a lot of great plot threads and establishing Nilaa as a thriving world. We learned a great deal about House Amtheyst, but I feel as if there’s much more to see. Furthermore, House Turquoise, House Diamond, House Onyx, and House Topaz only received bits of exposition and explanation, while House Ruby and House Emerald received mere mentions in the text. I’m sure, given more time, Marx would have fleshed out these other groups; I’d have especially loved to see more interplay between the three noble sons of House Diamond.
Why did a series with such a vibrant plot and tantalizing art suffer cancellation in less than a year? Obviously, there are a number of factors that led to Sword of Sorcery’s demise. The first is the $3.99 cover price; DC decided to make this an anthology series, but sadly the backups failed to add much to the story. The first backup, “Beowulf,” was entertaining, while the second, “Stalker,” bordered on unreadable. Had the series been solely the story of Amethyst with a price point of $2.99 I think the series could have survived longer among a crowd who’d only come for a core story. At the very least, I think it may have been better to use the backups to flesh out Nilaa, which may have helped increase and retain readership.
Another crucial nail in Sword of Sorcery’s proverbial coffin is, what I like to call, the “Comic Fan Diversity Paradox.” Diversity within comics is not a new issue, nor is it something people recently started discussing. Sometimes I wonder if the most vocal advocates for diversity in comics even regularly read comics, but that’s an issue for another time. The paradox I’m here to discuss is that comic fans demand more diverse casts, especially for leading roles, and yet the sales figures fail to reflect this demand. In short, the “majority” who calls for these changes fails to turn out and actually buy comics that feature the desired diversity.
Sword of Sorcery is a perfect example: Amaya is a strong character, a great role model not only for young women, but also for people in general. She is someone who fights for her beliefs, attempts to better the world around her, and is not above making mistakes before attempting to atone for them. Furthermore, she is, thankfully, not sexualized or presented in a way merely to appeal to the “cheesecake” factor that sadly is often the doom of female comic characters. Yet, at the same time, sales for this title were never impressive, or even remotely high for a title that deserved them. In short, I believe if more of the individuals demanding such characters actually stepped up and bought the comic, it could have survived and thus lessened some of the generic nature of mainstream comic characters. Obviously, I’m not wholly blaming comic fans, but DC never cancels titles with amazing sales no matter who poorly constructed the plots may be (I’m looking at you, Superman).
Ultimately, Sword of Sorcery was too good to last. When DC announced cancellation in February after only five issues were on the stands, I was sad but not wholly surprised. A collected edition of the entire run premiers this summer, and I urge everyone who can to pick it up. Maybe if the trade paperback sells well enough DC will be motivated to revive the series, giving Amethyst the solo title she deserves. The end of Issue #8 seemed to hint at a future series, what with the whole “We have only five months to complete this quest” line, which perhaps implies a new series come October. For now, all I can do is hope and re-read back issues.
-manages a satisfactory conclusion despite series cancellation
-high quality art, especially HI-FI’s coloring work
-exciting ending, and hints of future storylines
-parts of the conclusion feel rushed
-characters look odd in wide-shots
-presence of cheesy dialogue
Brett Simon is a twenty-three year old comic enthusiast. He thinks the DCU will have a dearth of violet without this title.
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