With a special guest appearance in "Justice League Dark," I'll admit that I was a little worried that the "Amethyst" story in "Sword of Sorcery" was going to get derailed before it even began. It's nice, then, to see in "Sword of Sorcery" #4 that Christy Marx and guest artist Travis Moore have found a way to make that guest-appearance not only fit into the greater storyline, but ultimately become an important stepping stone.
Marx takes advantage of Amaya's getting yanked out of Nilaa to let her return briefly to Chicago, where a simple search for a favorite food turns into a battle over the Amethyst powers. It's at its heart a simple enough story, but Marx hits a couple of points rather deftly. First, it's a reminder that Earth might not have the sheer amount of magic on display but it is still just as dangerous as Nilaa. And second, even cut off from the rest of her support system, Amaya can still fend for herself.
It's the latter that more than anything else has become an important backbone of "Sword of Sorcery." Even in its debut issue, Amaya's always been able to fend for herself. In the case of "Sword of Sorcery" #4, though, we're seeing her do so with the new magical tools at her disposal. Using something as simple as her new Amethyst outfit ends up to be something that she can use to her advantage, for instance, but not through brute strength -- rather, using her mind. It's part of what makes the comic as a whole so appealing; Amaya's no dummy and she's not just someone who happens to have a magical heritage.
The main villain of "Sword of Sorcery" #4, the evil businesswoman Ilene, comes across a little less appealing. Or rather, a little more silly. It's hard to take her too seriously, if only because her motivation is so simplistic. In many ways she's just a straw dog for Amaya to take down; if nothing else, it will make you yearn for Amaya to get back to Nilaa and the warring families there.
Moore's guest art fits well with the style that Aaron Lopresti brought to the title. It's relatively clean and smooth, with curves on his figures that aren't distracting. I like in particular the demons that Moore draws; he's got room to be a bit more inventive there and it works well. Aside from the occasional no-background panel happening a bit more than I'd like, I've got no complaints.
Marc Andreyko and Andrei Bressan serve up the first part of "Stalker" this month, and like the "Beowulf" feature that preceded it, it feels a little darker than the rest of "Sword of Sorcery" comes across. It's a good first chapter, though, introducing Stalker and quickly showing us how a deal with the devil almost never works out as planned. Because it's almost all set-up, there's not a lot to latch onto, but Andreyko gives us a good end point for this first chapter to try and stir up interest for the next piece. Bressan's art is moody and helps bring that darker style across mentioned earlier. Occasionally a panel feels a bit odd -- most notably the one where Stalker races across the room to attack the devil, which looks to be almost like he's flying because of the angle chosen -- but it's always easy to follow. With Chris Sotomayor's interesting color choices, though, I never found myself bored with the visuals.
"Sword of Sorcery" #4 has a side-step for its main feature and a new feature in the back, the pair of which could prove in other hands to be a jumping-off point. Here, though, I think that Marx, Andreyko, Moore and Bressan have kept the book on course. I'm glad the main feature is returning to more familiar territory next month, but all in all it's a pleasant issue. While new readers might not get a good feel for the world of Nilaa that "Amethyst" is set in, I think they will get a handle on its lead character of Amaya. For that alone, I'd say it's a success.