Review: Amala’s Blade #1, Its POC Female Assassin Protagonist, And Its Drunk Ghost Monkey

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I was turned onto Amala’s Blade in the same place where I get most of my comics news, reviews, and previews: Tumblr. Specifically, I was following the Tumblr for Princeless, which I picked up after realizing it was an all-ages comic starring a POC princess who is out to save all the other princesses from…

Well, a Princeless review is for another time. At any rate, in a case of like begets like, the Princeless Tumblr shared Amala’s Blade, another comic with a POC heroine protagonist. I was intrigued.

Unlike Princeless, Amala’s Blade is not an all-ages comic. Issue #0 is packed with swarthy, unsavory pirates, staggering fight scenes, and quite a lot of bloody violence. It also gave us a lot of insight into our titular heroine. Amala’s Blade #1 follows that swashbuckling adventure with much more exposition on the world at large and Amala’s place within it.

Mild spoilers are below the cut; if that bothers you, the spoiler-free summary of my thoughts on the issue is that I liked it. It isn’t the raucous and crazy introduction we had in issue #0, but it’s solid, and while not meaty on action and adventure the exposition is far from dull or ham-handed. The art is pretty stellar throughout, as well, and coupled with the excellent and interesting characterization that alone may make the issue worth picking up.

We begin our journey with Amala in a tavern–where all true adventures begin, let’s be honest. But here’s the thing we learned about Amala in issue #0: She sees dead people. And they are sassy. Our first ghost in this issue is a drunken monkey.

Which tells us that not only can ghosts get inebriated, but also that this issue has a drunken ghost monkey in it, and you don’t need much more than that to sell me on a comic sometimes.

Ok, maybe you need a little more. We find Amala in a tavern, with her drunken ghost monkey companion, discussing past exploits/milking her target for all it’s worth. For you see, as evidenced in that first image at the top there, Amala is a master assassin. We find out later in the book that she’s the best there is, but for now it’s enough to know that she isn’t there to play pinochle.

Look at this image and you’ll see why I wouldn’t consider this an all-ages comic. We may live in a society that doesn’t blink at violence in the media, but given how much blood and throat-slitting there are in these books, I don’t know if I’d be comfortable letting anyone under the age of 14 read it. Everyone’s different, though, and your mileage may vary. It’s entirely possible my proclivity for pacifism is showing here as well: I do tend to prefer the kinds of TV shows and movies where all the bloody deaths happen just off-screen. I wholly admit my bias in that regard.

At any rate, Amala makes quite the scene in the tavern, and in a sort of Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch narrative move, we switch to a fighting arena where we are introduced to pompous, villainous politicians. How do I know they’re villainous? Jeez, just look at this guy:

He’s ugly, he’s fat, he’s using extremely shiny and slick technology, he’s got all the hallmarks of excess. And what really sealed the deal for me: He doesn’t look entirely unlike Baron Harkonnen, which, as far as narrative cues go, is almost as good an indicator of evil as strikingly villainous music or immediately kicking a puppy. Our friendly neighborhood politician has had enough of Amala failing to keep her business low-key and insists that he has a foolproof plan to kill her off so she’s no longer a nuisance.

Which, it would seem, is the set-up for the next few books. This book ends with a little more exposition on the nature of the war going on in this world (a sort of technocracy vs magocracy environment). There’s also a missive to Amala giving her what appears to be an impossible mission, a suicide run at a high-ranking member of the nobility, a touch of romance, and a bit of mystery. Then Amala’s off to execute some plan she concocted off-screen, leaving us only with her camping out on her first night, hoping her plan will work…

And these guys, lurking in the darkness:

I admit to feeling mildly unsatisfied with the book. It really felt like this should have been issue #0, covering as it did exposition about the world at large. Then we’d move into the tight, close action and character development that actually draws the reader along and engages them in the story. When you’re building a world from scratch it’s inevitable that you’ll need to take some time and space to actually explain what’s going on. I can only hope that this will lead back into the exciting and explosive action sequences that hooked me in issue #0.

Also, there was a distinct lack of sassy ghosts in this issue. Mama needs her sass to keep her hooked, yanno?

What about you? Have you read Amala’s Blade #1? Liked it, loved it, hated it? Let us know in the comments!

Amala’s Blade #1 is written by Steve Horton and drawn and colored by Michael Dialynas. It can be purchased at your local comic shop or directly through Dark Horse.

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