Amala's Blade #1
By Jeremy Whitley
April 14, 2013 - 12:39
Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Steve Horton
Penciller(s): Michael Dialynas
Inker(s): Michael Dialynas
Colourist(s): Michael Dialynas
Cover Artist(s): Michael Dialynas
Written by Steve Horton and illustrated by Michael Dialynas, Amala's Blade is a four-issue mini series (plus a zero issue, which was previously in Dark Horse Presents) that follows the adventures of Amala, a young woman who happens to be this world's foremost cold-blooded assassin.
Let me stop right there and say this: there are a plethora of female assassins in the market right now, I'm sure you all know that. What makes Amala special is that, for once, sexiness has nothing to do with how or why she is an assassin. Amala is a young woman who looks like a young woman. She looks about sixteen and for the most part her dialogue reflects that. She's also fully clothed throughout the book...you know, like someone who gets in fights. That's my baseline for this story, I open the book and they're already doing things right that a lot of books aren't.
What really makes this book shine is the world in which Amala lives. It's a world divided by a long civil war between two factions. There are the Purifiers, who are a steam run quasi-Victorian civilization and the modifiers who are a body-altering cyber punk world right out of Shadowrun. Amala exists in between the two of these, working for The Vizier, a man who is playing the two sides against eachother like an elaborate game of chess.
Beyond the world being great, Amala is an amazing character. Her job is to quietly dispatch the targets provided by The Vizier, however she has a tendancy to make things far more dramatic than they need to be. This is worsened by the fact that she is haunted by the ghosts of her previous kills (and a monkey) who are constantly talking to her. As if all of that weren't enough, she's living with a smith and his apprentice how are solid characters in their own right. And, get this, Amala has a romantic relationship with the Smith's apprentice which is 1)not outright sexual and 2)not a defining element of her character.
All that, and I haven't really talked about the art yet. Dialynas art skirts a wonderful line between American comic book art and Anime. A lot of people try to walk this line, but he's found the perfect mesh. Faces are expressive. Settings are distinctive. The Purifier world has a certain industrial revolution London grittiness to it which feels just perfect. Everything about the art is expertly executed and while there aren't too many splashes or elaborate set pieces that make you draw attention to the art in a book, the execution is flawless. The mood of the art fits the story perfectly.
There a few times that I've read a book and thought "Yes, this is what I was looking for." and even fewer when they were books that were an unknown quantity to me. But everything about this first issue is just right.
I have only two complaints:
1) This book features a female protagonist and is literally two blood soaked panels away from being a book I could share with all-ages. There aren't enough books with girls for girls and I would have loved to have one more.
2) It's slated as a mini-series and I hate the idea that after these four issues we might not get to see more.
So there you have it, the only things wrong with the book are that I can't give it to everybody and there may not be enough of them! That's pretty impressive! It'll be out April 24th and you shold plan on picking it up.