Review: Akaneiro #3, Amala’s Blade #4

If you’re a Dark Horse fan, it’s a pretty sad week, witnessing the end of three incredible mini-series that are testament to a great publisher supporting some of the best comics art in the business. Throw some Eisners and Harveys at these creative teams!

 Akaneiro #3

22676Justin Aclin’s American McGee video game adaptation finds its awesome end this week with Akaneiro #3. After journeying to a Yokai (demon) infested village, protagonist Kani takes to her own and becomes a red hunter—clearly a special ‘chosen’ one, since she uses the powers without training. This final issue includes a dramatic end, with battle after battle, and the ultimate resolution of Kani and her many personal identities.

Aclin, as I’ve noted before, is rather new to comics, having mostly written Star Wars comics, but he has yet to disappoint (with the exception of the rather novice line used on the last page: “And suddenly it’s months later, and my destiny has been fulfilled.” This line, however, speaks to the quickness with which the series presents itself and ends—abruptly. Not many writers could adapt such a complex world to just three issues, but Aclin has succeeded; it’s the narrative itself, with its complexity, that yearns for at least one more issue (an intermediate one, really). But I’m entirely satisfied with the little bit we got.

Lolos and Atiyeh make one of the best artistic teams I’ve seen all year. Lolos’ art is so unique as to be hardly comparable to other artists with books by major companies, and Atiyeh’s talented coloring puts life in his art, mastering the vibrant end of the color spectrum. Lolos has strayed away from sexualizing what, in the comics industry, would be a perfect target: a young, sword-fighting Japanese girl, with the exception of the third panel on the third page, which is your typical knock-the-character-down-and-show-her-butt shot. Aside from this, Lolos’ work begs no complaints.

In summary: Dear Dark Horse, please make more Akaneiro, and congratulate Aclin, Lolos, and Atiyeh on an incredible series.

Story: Justin Aclin  Art: Vasilis Lolos, Michael Atiyeh
Story: 8  Art: 9  Overall: 8  Recommendation: Buy

Amala’s Blade #4

22082If there could be a better mini-series than Akaneiro, it would have to be Amala’s Blade, a gritty, steampunk, sci-fi, fantasy, swashbuckling, haunted assassin’s story that makes a hero out of the most powerful and least sexualized WoC to grace mainstream comics in a long time (sure, a number of powerful WoC, but how many have been without sexualization?). This small story, four issues total, packs a mega-sized punch, and has blown me away both narratively and artistically.

As with Akaneiro #3, it appears that Amala’s Blade #4 is suffering from too-short-a-series syndrome. Steve Horton has managed in the previous three issues (and zero-issue) to pack quite a punch with each one, telling a succinct story that introduces all of the characters and ideas and builds a fascinating world. But this final issue wavers on the edge of the plotting quality of previous issues, with somewhat awkward turns of events in the space of a page, which create the false illusion that Horton is not a skilled writer. Amala starts a war, just as quickly ends it, wants to kill her mother, just as quickly doesn’t, then ghosts force her to do so, and then she banishes the ghosts. All of this narrative splendor is packed into the second half of the comic—that’s a bit much for some twelve pages.

Yet while Amala’s Blade #4 was a departure from the near-perfect narrative development of previous issues, Michael Dialynas’s pages are bursting with art that demands to be made into a paragon of fantasy/sci-fi comics art. I haven’t seen anything else by Dialynas, but I imagine it’s all of the same caliber, and I wouldn’t mind seeing his work on some of the more ‘mainstream’ books in order to give the general comic-reading public an idea of how diverse their books can become.

Amala’s Blade #4, like Akaneiro #3, suffers slightly from crunched plotting. But does that means it’s bad? Hell no! Go buy a copy for yourself, open in up, and be blown away by the best mini-series I’ve read this year! I’ve gotta get my hands on this TPB!

Story: Steve Horton  Art: Michael Dialynas
Story: 7  Art: 9  Overall: 8.5  Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review

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One comment

  • Vasilis, great to hear from you! Ha, I knew that butt-shot looked familiar. Thank you for such amazing artwork and one of my favorite mini-series this year; I’m really looking forward to the TPB (assuming they’ve scheduled one!). All the best, and looking forward to more of your incredible work.