Sunday, April 1, 2018

Amethyst Comic Box Commentary

It is a terrible feeling.
But that is what I have been feeling.

I had been putting together posts to celebrate my 10th anniversary of blogging at the end of this month and kept seeing repeating themes.

DC puts out an angry, angsty Supergirl.
Later, they realize this is wrong and put on a new creative team with a new direction.
Book flourishes and fans are happy.
DC cancels the book.

It has happened again. The current Supergirl book is great and it is selling well. It is creator hubris which is forcing DC to cancel it this time. I can't live through it again.

And I realized that maybe 10 years is enough time to cover one character. Maybe it is time for a fresh start. Maybe it was time to start writing about some other character? Maybe it was time to say goodbye to Supergirl.

And that is when I had a gem of an idea. Amethyst Comic Box Commentary. Why not cover another young female hero struggling to find life while living in two worlds! I've always loved the character. Now it is time to shine a light on her!

So I'm glad you found the site!

And what better opening post than to review her first appearance ever in the Amethyst Princess of the Gemworld Prevue story which was embedded in Legion of Super-Heroes #298.

"Duel in Dark Magic" had the tremendous creative team behind the Amethyst maxi-series and ultimate monthly title. The writers were Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin. The writer was Ernie Colon. And the team really flourishes here.

They truly create a wonderful, magical world in Gemworld which feels as familiar as your standard fantasy realm but very different with its gem houses and politics. And Colon brings a nice flair to the proceedings. Their are carved faces in the architecture and decorations in all of Gemworld, giving it a unique little detail. It feels a bit like Dune, maybe the Jodorowsky vision.

And we start out with this 'inside cover' for the prevue showing some of the feel of the book. We see Amethyst in her fighting clothes as well as a more formal courtly dress with a fanciful head dress. And we see the evil Dark Opal looming over and leering. Now doubt given the mustache, the expression, and the lined face that he is the villain of the piece.

There is something missing here. But more on that later.

And the creators do a great job just dropping us into the action. There is no build up. No exposition page describing Gemworld. Instead we are in a dank castle forge where Dark Opal demands a special armor breast plate be made with shards of all the gems of powers of the world embedded within. He also will place his own gem of power within this as well. The one gem he is missing? Amethyst.

The armor will give him tremendous power, enough to wrest control of the world and put it under his thumb. Dark Opal entrusts the gems to Carnelian, his son. Carnelian has no magical powers, something which makes him shunned here. It seems very out of place in this world. Of course, we learn why later in the series.

And we meet Sardonyx, a sort of Desaad of the court of Opal.

Everything about this scene is great. The look of the forge is creepy. And I love the look of Dark Opal and he chews the scenery as a bigger than life villain.

Opal gets word from his seers that Princess Amethyst is off on a quest with but one bodyguard.

We cut to Amethyst and her bodyguard Granch as they woalk throug the Bog of One Thousand Despairs. It is a chaotic realm with the environment changing around them.

This is our first look at Amethyst and at first she seems to be the helpless young princess who needs a brute to guard her. Her flouncy garb and her talk of flowers beauty all set up the reader to think she is going to need to constantly be rescued, not recognizing the danger she is in.

Meanwhile Carnelian plays with the pieces of magical gems and wonders what his lot in life will be once his father gets all powerful. Perhaps he needs to sabotage his father's wishes if only to ensure he has a place in the possible new order.

Meanwhile, Opal is distracted by the presence of Amethyst nearby. He decides that the time might be right to attack. For when else will she be out of her castle and relatively unprotected.

Again, the scenery is lush and deep. You drink in this book with your eyes.

I told you that Amethyst initially seems like a superficial, vapid young courtly lady.

But this is clearly a feint by Cohn and Mishkin. When a winged monster, sent by Opal and his witches, attacks Amethyst, she uses magic to switch to fighting togs. And in the span of one panel, she vaporizes the beast.

Don't be fooled by appearances. Amethyst is no slouch. She is dangerous.

But Dark Opal isn't done. He sends a sort of cyclone demon to the bog. This isn't as easily vanquished by Amethyst whose magic seems to be drained by this vortex. It is only when Granch tosses a huge boulder down the things gullet.

When Granch asks how Amethyst knew that would work, she says something fascinating. She says thought of the time a bone went down and clogged a garbage disposal.

A garbage disposal? That doesn't sound like something you would find in a Gemworld kitchen. Hmmmm ....

While Opal sends his attackers to Amethyst, his court begins the forging of his armor. As the armorer slides the breastplate into the fire, Carnelian cranks the heat. The furnace explodes, blasting the room with mystical energy and burning the blacksmith horrifically.

This was not what Carnelian thought would happen. Perhaps he thought the armor would simply melt or not be functional.

Now I talked about the chaotic nature of the Gemworld. And we get a sense of that.

SomehowAmethyst arrives and enters the cave where Dark Opal is manipulating all the events. A skirmish breaks out allowing Amethyst to stick her hand into scrying pool and grab something ... what she came for when she went out on this walkabout.

There is a lot to process here. Somehow Amethyst is in this cave. Was it near the bog? Do the laws of physics ... of distance and time ... mean nothing in Gemworld? And if she got what she came for, was she anticipating this battle? Did she lure Opal into this attack so she could grab what she did?

But Opal has bigger worries. News of his breastplate exploding has reached his ears.

He teleports himself to the forge. Despite the pain it will cause, he plunges his hand into the molten metal to regain his magical gem. I love the panel set up here, the moment played out nicely by Colon. But his covering Sardonyx face in that second to last panel is brilliant. Opal's anger is too big in that last panel. It is more important to process than Sardonyx's surprise. Interesting choice.

And then the last page which shocked me when I first read it.

Amethyst is still being attacked on her way back. She must free herself from the grasp of a three-headed monster. As she falls, a portal opens and suddenly she is a young girl on an Earthly bed.


Of course, now we all know about Amethyst's double life as pre-teen Amy Winston on Earth and powerful young woman sorceress Amethyst on Gemworld. But back then? No one knew.

So Cohn and Miskin set the bait beautifully. We are tossed into a wild new world. We aren't given any backstory. And the plot has the pedal down. This is magical brawl where we see how dangerous a warrior Amethyst is. We know this place is awash in sorcery with mystic gems and enchanted armor and rival courts and families. We barely have time to catch our breath.

And then ... BOOM ... the rug is pulled out from under us. The real mystery, the real surprise is that our heroine is from Earth. There is a whole layer to this story that is fresh. We have all read fantasy books like Stalker, Beowulf, Arak, Arion, and Warlord. Reading this prevue, I wondered what would differentiate Amethyst from those books. And then we get this last page. It explains the garbage disposal line from earlier.

And that’s what is missing from the “cover” ... young Amy Winston! There isn’t even a clue there!

Wow. Now that is a hook that made me want to read more, just what one of these samples should do.

And you?? Are you ready to learn more???


Anonymous said...


If DC will not take our money, then let's build our fandom around a new character, all but guaranteed to keep our wallets safe.

And what a day to do it on. Amethyst's first appearance was 35 years ago, I truly understand why you picked this day Anj, and know that I stand with you on this magical new journey.

Though the stories from Gemworld are far between today I strongly look forward to your wise insights into Dark Opal's crossover appearances in Lego Brain Drain and Hero of the Year.

Anonymous said...

I'm most definitely buying this change. Most definitely.

Regardless, I'm a 80's kid, so this kind of stuff reminds me of my childhood. Thanks for this post.

KET said...

Hmmm...didn't you do an April Fools Day Amethyst makeover in a previous year? My memories are definitely getting hazy now... :)

Between the Superman Homepage stating a merger between Legends of Tomorrow and some show that I can't recall that's returning in 2 weeks, and the announcement that Gemma Atkinson is taking over as PG next TV season...

(well, at least the news that Supergirl is returning to Hulu in some urban markets soon is real.) :)


Martin Gray said...

Great review, I really fancy rereading the Amethyst saga now. And the shift of direction makes sense, I can't wait to see which of the Amethyst Family of books you cover next. LoSH?

Anj said...

I love Amethyst and wish DC would revisit the character without New-52ing her like they did a few years back.

And I would be all for a blog or podcast focused on her stuff!

Anonymous said...

Happy April's Fool to you, Anj!

Don't know if you've caught DCSHG: Hero Of The Year and Lego DCSHG: Brain Drain yet, but this post definitely gave me a bit of context
and history to Gemworld, et al. as they're seen onscreen and mentioned.


Anonymous said...

I am doubling down on "Lady Blackhawk" getting her own show on the CW....or maybe "Merry: The Gimmick Girl"