Both the "Amethyst" saga by Christy Marx and Aaron Lopresti and the "Beowulf" tale by Tony Bedard and Jesus Saiz continue to be excellent fantasy fare in "Sword of Sorcery" #2. New plot twists and characters are introduced, and dialogue, pacing and art all continue to be engrossing and skillful.
In "Amethyst: The Path of Heart," Marx and Lopresti's world-building is rich and exuberant. Marx has named all the locations of the houses -- like Rappandard Peak, the citadel of House Diamond -- and her casual inventions like "mist-silk" also add to the verisimilitude of Nilaa as a world with culture and history going back for generations.
Lopresti's rich backgrounds also reinforce Nilaa as another world. The detail in the opening double-page spread of Manipoor, the capital city, gives the reader a classic, horizon-wide, bird's eye view of a foreign land. The interiors, clothing and hair that Lopresti designs for the different characters and houses help readers distinguish between them. In particular, the furnishings within House Citrine show a love of beauty and comfort, and Lopresti's attention to attractive detail, like the trim of the windows and pitchers on the tables, adds to the personality of House Citrine and its inhabitants. Hi-Fi's colors are flattering complement for Lopresti's art, and the shift in palette for the nighttime scenes convey the feeling of dusk perfectly.
Lopresti's camera angles and pacing are a great match for Marx's quickly-moving, dramatic script. His skill with body language and facial expressions plays throughout the story, especially in the dinner scene, in which characters feel shock, uneasiness, annoyance, patience, surprise and determination. The scene also highlights Marx's humor in a moment of culinary culture shock for Amaya, and Marx's sense of the dynamic between adults and teenagers is still spot-on. The older generation speaks more formally, but Amaya's speech still has its delightfully casual American teenager rhythms and accompanying "ums" and "likes."
Marx deftly expands of the cast with the introduction of House Onyx, and a quick glimpse into the internal politics and relationships within House Diamond. The conflict between Prince Zushan and Prince Hadran is a clichéd shortcut to establishing character, and it's the only time in "Sword of Sorcery" #2 that Marx's writing loses its freshness and slips into predictability. However, the scene quickly establishes a good prince/bad prince setup, and I'm already predicting that sparks will fly when Amaya inevitably meets Hadran.
In Tony Bedard's backup story "Beowulf," character development also deepens as the action quickens. Wiglaf shows himself to have inherited a sense of honor from his father, and Beowulf unexpectedly becomes a more sympathetic hero when events and a battle show him to have judgment and intelligence as well as strength and savagery. The combination of high-tech and medieval setting is still disconcerting, keeping the reader guessing about whether Beowulf's next move will be guided by reflexes and iron or data and technology.
It's interesting to see what Bedard keeps from the original myth and what he discards. Even though the appearance of a certain character is from canon, the cliffhanger ending in "Sword of Sorcery" #2 feels surprisingly fresh. This is due in part to Saiz's art, which has excellent action sequences and pacing that ground the reader in this new take on Beowulf's world. Reber's shadowy palette keeps the tone appropriately grim and emphasizes moments in battle like the flash of teeth of the brightness of weapons.
I continue to be impressed with how efficiently Marx, Bedard, Lopresti and Saiz advance plot and characterization within their allotted pages in "Sword of Sorcery" #2, each team succeeding in building a complex world gracefully and fleshing out complex settings and characters through action and dialogue.