Sometimes I pick up a book just to see what it's all about, sight unseen, and story unknown. There are times I wish I had the hard-earned cash back and then there are times where I close the back cover, pleasantly surprised. "Amala's Blade" #1 is one of those latter books. I know "Amala's Blade" is a story that gained some attention in the pages of "Dark Horse Presents," but honestly, I've read so many stories over the past year that I couldn't immediately recall it. No such problems will occur from Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas' work on "Amala's Blade" #1.
Under the deceptively cute and stylish artwork from Dialynas, lead character Amala is a hard-nosed hitwoman. Billed as the greatest assassin in all of Naamaron, Amala is haunted by the success of her past. That past includes killing, and the haunting comes in the form of ghosts -- like the ghost monkey seen on both of this issue's available covers. Horton introduces the reader to the star of the comic in a tavern and promptly destroys all evidence that any such meeting ever occurred. In that tavern, readers get a taste of the steampunk-tinged world Amala inhabits, the sides that exist in the waning days following civil war and Amala's ruthlessness. As much as my brain wanted to draw comparisons between this and Jeremy Bastian's "Cursed Pirate Girl," Horton spiked those connections right back in my face and moved this story forward.
Dialynas' art is quite different from Bastian's as well. More cartoony and packed with the range of emotions that style naturally includes, Dialynas' art instills a lightheartedness to this story that one wouldn't ordinarily find in the comic book tales of a sword-bearing, knife-wielding assassin. Spots of art, like the bartender unwrapping the mail delivery, remind me of Paul Smith's work in the equally unique "Leave It To Chance," but Dialynas brings as much Eric Powell to the art in this comic as he does Paul Smith. He also sews in some Guy Davis and even manga influences in his work. The artist also colors his own work, which results in a clean, sharp-looking comic book with a fun assortment of subject matter and interpreted exactly as the artist intended.
"Amala's Blade" #1 has some fun moments in it and some wonderful coming of age bits too, but the throat slitting early in the book really discouraged me from thinking about sharing this comic with my young daughters. I'm anxious to see where the rest of the story goes, but so far, Horton and Dialynas have given me more than enough reason to come back and check out the next issue for myself.