Amala's Blade #0

Amala’s Blade #0

All it took was one glance at the cover of Amala’s Blade #0 and I knew I had to have it. Rarely does that happen to me in the comic shop, but there she was, this fierce little warrior woman surrounded by dastardly cyborg pirates. And does she even notice them? No. She was staring at me with her cool blue eyes, sword drawn, a smirk on her face. She’s was daring me to pick the book up and take it home. I did. I’m glad.

Below I’m going to gloss over the individual details of each individual issue in favor of looking at the series as a whole. Just so you know.

The universe  that Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas have crafted in Amala’s Blade is vibrant and compelling and full of life (and death). Our titular hero is a young assassin named Amala who’s very good at what she does. But she’s not just your typical assassin. No no no, she sees dead people. More specifically she sees the people she’s murdered, or had a hand in killing (that’s not entirely clear at this point). They talk to her, give her advice, help her in fights, and generally don’t seem too upset about being ectoplasm, which is odd. So, she sees ghosts AND she’s kind of the chosen one, supposed to bring peace to her world and all that. Though right now she’s more about making that money and offing folks.

The world itself is just as intriguing as its hero. It’s filled with, as stated above, cyborg pirates, but also cyborg gladiators, cyborg worms, cyborg assassins, swarthy drinkers, friendly mechanics, and a whole host of unique and interesting characters. The lands are divided between the Purifiers, all about the sanctity of the body, and the Modifiers, essentially cyborgs. Horton and Dialynas even include a map at the beginning of each issue so you can get your bearings. There’s a lot of mutual hatred to go around between the factions, so much so that the planet appears to be in an eternal state of war, with Amala running around bumping off people from both sides. No one is safe from her sword.

And while the setting for the story is gorgeous and wonderfully immersive, you’ll find the real beauty of this book in Amala herself. Horton’s crafted a charming, fierce, down-to-earth young woman who is more than capable of taking care of herself and anyone that gets in her way. She is intriguing and relatable despite her chosen profession, and she’s not the typical jaded, stoic, silent assasin that we’ve seen a thousand times before. She experiences the entire spectrum of human emotion over the course of these three issues, from joy to anger to fear to regret; I think the best part of Amala’s Blade is that our hero feels whole.

The narrative itself clips along at a quick page and always feels like it’s moving toward something. Amala goes from a dread pirate ship, which introduces us to her and her ghosts and gives us a taste of what she’s all about, to what may be her last mission; if she doesn’t complete it she’s dead meat, and the hit itself is akin to suicide. But our girl takes it in stride. The dialogue is smart, and never gets stale. That and the book is genuinely funny at times, like when she’s hanging out in a dark, dingy bar and they finally turn on the lights.

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I mentioned a bit about Amala’s ghosts above, but I think they’re a very clever device that works to reveal our able assassin’s inner-most thoughts and hint at bits and pieces of her past. I actually asked Steve about how what creates a ghost, and he said that “At first it’s people that have died around her. Then the rules change.” What could be even more interesting is the interaction between ghosts. Some are Purifiers, others are Modifiers, some are people that Amala knows, some she killed, and I’m hoping they act as sort of a chorus for the audience.

Artistically, I’ve been really into Amala’s outfits. That might sound silly, but in an age of comics that tends to cater to the lowest common denominator, a fully clothed heroine is a sight for over-sexualized sore eyes. And Dialynas manages to make her look both lethal and fashionable at the same time. Unlike Billy Batson who dons the same red shirt every single freaking day, Amala has a slew of different outfits, which keeps her appearance engaging and fresh. She’s drawn in something unique in each issue, and at the end of the day she’s just really fun to look at.

Then there’s the little things that stand out, the little visual flourishes that you really start to appreciate on your second read. I especially like the small rope attached to the bottom of her sword. It reminds me of Ninja Scroll, and the rope makes for a very cool image as it flows behind each of her strikes. Even more impressive is that Dialynas is doing ALL of the art himself: pencils, inks, and colors. Did I mention that the coloring was phenomenal as well? Unlike some comics that tend to stick to a pre-defined pallet, here each page feels rich and almost heavy. Colors are deep and full, and can go from the sparking neon glow of a Modifier’s limbs to the lush green of a heavily wooded forest in an instant, adding more flair to an already incredible artistic tour de force.

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I think that you should go out and get Amala’s Blade. It’s a really fun read and Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas have created a wonderfully immersive experience in Amala and her universe. The narrative is fun, the artwork is beautiful, and it’s just a very very solid title. Nothing more to say folks.

About The Author

Ben graduated with a degree in Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media from Michigan State University, finally figured out that he loved comics more than anything in the world, and moved to New York City to intern for Marvel. He lived in NYC for a while, freelance writing his own column for Marvel.com, “Unlimited Highlights” and waiting tables, but missed the Michigan greenery and moved back to attend grad school at MSU and study comics.

He was accepted into the school’s Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing program and worked for the Writing Center as a Graduate Coordinator, helping people of all writing levels improve their work. Flash forward two years and he’s a Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing master, the Scholarly Panel Coordinator for the MSU Comics Forum, and an Editorial Fellow at Symbolia Magazine, while still keeping up with his Marvel freelance gig, writing reviews for DestroyTheCyborg, and writing at his own blog, I Speak Comics. Comics have consumed his life and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

When he’s not reading, thinking, or writing about funny books he plays fighting games. He loves them ALMOST as much as he loves comics, which is scary. Currently he’s bringing the lightning as Shazam in Injustice: Gods Among Us, but he plays a bit of Guy in Street Fighter 4, Ezio in Soul Calibur 5, and Thor/Hulk/She-Hulk in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. If you’re on Xbox and have a hankering for a beat down, hit him up, he’s iFIGHT4food.

Is that it? He'll get back to you when something new and cool goes down.

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