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Review: Amala’s Blade #3

Amala 3Steve Horton and illustrator Michael Dialynas bring readers the third installment in the Dark Horse mini-series Amala’s Blade, available this week. This series is great fun, the same caliber, excitement, and creativity as books like Akaneiro (also available this week) and Image’s Saga (a TPB is available for the second volume this week, too), and reminds me a lot of Lionhead Studios’ Fable.

Horton and Dialynas provide a world of magic and steampunk, sword fighting and ghosts, assassins and a religious war. It’s about being haunted (in Amala’s case, literally) by the ghosts of one’s past, and recognizing that they can help you kill people—or if you want to be non-violent and metaphorical, it’s about recognizing that past mistakes, triumphs, or failures are constant lessons.

Like Vaugh with Saga, Horton’s narrative always keeps me guessing, with ever more fantastic events and beings around the corner. It’s an original story mixed-and-matched from stories all across Nerdom, and reads a bit like something from Terry Pratchett. What’s even greater is that, despite a final lead, gender really is not an issue, and I haven’t found a single even semi-sexist or gender biased comment in the books. Now that’s a feat, especially when in female-centric books like Wonder Woman the eponymous Amazon can’t get away from Orion’s nickname “Legs.” Yes, Amala is a woman. And yes, she’s the most bad-ass assassin whose fate the balance of factional war hinges upon.  No one turns a head (except when they’re getting killed).

Dialynas wonderfully illustrates this issue relying on a new color for the ghosts that has them standing out far better and looking more ghastly, though I really did like the bluish hue from earlier issues. I bring up color because Dialynas uses color to contrast the two opposing forces in this land: the Modifiers are typified by colors in shades of purple and black, while the Purifiers are more naturally colored. This contrast speaks to the artificial weirdness of the magically cyborg Modifiers, best exemplified in the canine cyborg wyrm which Amala fights and then commandeers.

Moreover, however, this issue is pivotal in moving the plot forward, and Horton easily weaves humor, emotional personal stories, and the fate of the land across the pages. I didn’t want Amala’s Blade #3 to end, but by the book’s close I was greatly satisfied to just soak up the art and get giddy for the next issue!

And I’m hoping that Amala’s Blade is not the last we’ll see of Horton and Dialynas’ wild world.

Story: Steve Horton  Art: Michael Dialynas
Story: 8.5  Art: 9  Overall: 9  Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review