Review: Swords of Sorrow #6
Swords of Sorrow #6
Gail Simone (script), Sergio Davila (art), Jorge Sutil (colors), Erica Schultz (letters)
Tula Lotay (main cover), Emanuela Lupacchino & Ivan Nunes (cover B), Robert Hack (cover C)
October 14, 2015
Here it is! The final issue in the epic crossover event featuring the ladies of Dynamite, Swords of Sorrow. As the last issue, we dive into not only a review of the comic, but an overall look at the event, the main series and the several minis and one-shots.
(Disclaimer: This review may contain spoilers and is based on an advanced review copy from Dynamite.)
The basics first – what did you think of the overall story?
Ginnis Tonik: I guessed right, the “blond Amazon type” is Athena! I think this is one of the first issues where I wasn’t like now who is this person?
Kate Tanski: Athena! My inner classics nerd is so happy right now. I just wish we’d had more time with her. I wish we’d had more time with all of them, really. I do appreciate the big party boat scene at the end, though. A series/event like this should end on a high note.
Amanda Vail: You know what, I’m pretty happy right now. I was worried about how the series would wrap up, and while I still feel the series was rushed, I enjoyed the last issue. Aside from the fact that I feel sorry for Hel. But it was fun to see some of the Chaos ladies acknowledge their qualms and subsequently flip sides. Go, Chastity, go! Dejah Thoris is her usual badass self; I love her determination. And, finally fulfilling my secret longing from SoS #2, we got more Lady Jane Greystoke! I really love the contrast between Jane’s love and commitment to her family and the shallow, grudge-against-women-bearing shard men.
I feel like that detail with Jane, as well as a couple of other pieces that came together in this issue, suddenly made this story much more three-dimensional. We got to see the complexity that I’ve been waiting for all along.
Wendy Browne: Too little too late. Nothing happened in this issue that wasn’t entirely predictable, from Vampirella’s revival to Jungle Girl’s return with reinforcements to Chastity’s side switch to the defeat of the two-dimensional shardmen and Prince Charming’s shallow, misogynistic quest. Thankfully, Purgatori didn’t utter one useless “my love” this time around, but she ultimately proved that she had no purpose at all except message and sword delivery girl. Other than Jungle Girl, I have no idea how the generals of the battle were chosen. It was really just a free for all with everyone, including yet another new character, tossed in. Thank goodness everyone repeatedly used each other’s names to finally make it clear who was who. I would like to request name tags in the reboot of this series. I want to say that this story might have been better given more time to tell it, but if the plot is still going to involve everyone fighting everyone, making friends, then fighting a big misogynistic bad, then I’m going to have to pass.
Birdi Lulu: Overall this issue was fun and there were a few delightfully cheesy jokes, but I’m going to have to agree with Wendy. It was all too little too late. While the party scene at the end was fun nothing about this issue or really the series felt nuanced or unique. It all read fairly predictable while at the same time loose in terms of who we are selecting as leaders and why. I’m not sure we really were given concrete connections to entry and placement of characters. But at least Vampirella stuck around, and I got a good giggle or two in.
Next up for basics – what about the art?
Gin: I really like when Davila does a single panel page where the Dynamite ladies are shown off as powerful. The Pantha vs. the Shard Man panel is just stellar, right up there with the panel depicting The Traveler in all her glory. Also, I didn’t recognize Mistress Hel at first in her new costume – she was far more covered than usual. I am curious as to whether or not her crotch skull was big enough for Sarah Richardson’s standards.
Kate: I enjoy that Davila makes an effort to show these warrior women as actually muscular, but the art is still not what I would consider as “good” overall. In the last story and this one, I couldn’t help but think that all these women have the same face, and the same body, and for the most part, the same hair. They’re just colored differently.
Amanda: I *loved* the Pantha vs. Shard Man panel. But you know what I loved more? The cover. I just adore the way Tula Lotay moves the viewer’s gaze around the page, and then traps us in the heated glare shared by Vampirella and Purgatori. It’s powerful and raw, and I think it’s a very strong finish to her great run over the course of Swords of Sorrow.
Wendy: I felt this issue, despite the grandiose scope and many characters, did a much better job with the clean, well defined lines. There were panels in the previous issue that were just too messy and made it difficult to tell who the characters were in a story that already made it difficult to tell them apart.
Birdi: I really appreciate the mixed style panels. I’m a fan of playing with our expectations of how to read and view the art when it comes to panels as long as it benefits and moves the story along which holds true in this issue. Focusing on the muscular attributes of the women as well as their strong facial expressions works to really pull the reader’s focus to the work the bodies are doing. Regarding the cover, can we just acknowledge that Tula Lotay is a force to be reckoned with? She can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Lotay’s cover also helps to set up the visual of body work throughout the issue.
Alright team, this was the last issue. What are your overall perceptions of the event now after the final issue?
Kate: I stand by my assertion that the story that Gail Simone wanted to tell was too big for six issues–at least for the kind of storytelling that she enjoys doing. I feel like plot got in the way of the story. I admire what she set out to accomplish, and for some characters, I really feel like she was successful. I just wish she’d had more time.
Amanda: Was it a perfect series? No. (But what is?) Was it fun? Yes. I had a great time reading it, even if I did have my critiques. As Kate says, it wasn’t the storytelling or the plot that got in the way, really, it was the amount of time in which to tell that story. There are so many great elements to this run, and I wish we could have seen more of all of them. So, really, for making us all want more: my hat’s off to you, Ms. Simone!
Red Sonja sums it up for me at the end, though: “All my respect to the fiery heart of each of you.” (I think that must be Simone’s sentiment shining through, there!) I love all of these women, and I enjoyed seeing them written in a new, fun, empowering way–by women. That, in and of itself, was enough to sell me on the series, and my mind hasn’t changed. I’ll be watching for this in trade paperback (you hear me, Dynamite? I want this in trade!), then sitting down to read it all over again.
Wendy: I really disliked the story–which was barely a story as far as I’m concerned–but I do love the entire concept behind this. I have come to really appreciate Dejah Thoris, for example, a character that was nothing more than wank fodder as far as I was concerned, based on how she’s been drawn over recent years. I also learned about a lot of other characters and am amazed that Dynamite has so many incredible women on their roster. I definitely want to learn more about many of them, so for that, mission accomplished, Swords of Sorrow!
Birdi: Overall, I wasn’t impressed. Parts of each issue were enjoyable, but as an entire series I was bored and left wondering why and how I’m supposed to believe the ties between characters and purpose are so strong when we didn’t have the work to fill that in. Would I read it again, nah, but I would giggle about it with buds over a glass of whiskey.
Gin: I loved it for the concept alone. I have a fondness for pulpy characters, particularly the female characters. Besides, this series felt more like a test run for Dynamite: to really tap into an audience that has probably always been there, but we are just really starting to take notice of. Do I think the plot was flawed–yes, a lot, honestly, but I DON’T GIVE A CRAP BECAUSE THE CHAINMAIL BIKINI IS GONE!
Considering the recent announcement from Dynamite about the relaunch of Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, and Vampirella, how are you feeling about Swords of Sorrow in relation to this new direction for Dynamite?
Gin: This was pretty much exactly what I hoped for out of this series, and I imagine many other fans, creators, and comic professionals who love these pulpy ladies and want more diversity in the industry also wanted this. Also, with the official announcement of Rachel Pinnelas as the editor for the relaunch, I am pretty stoked about this new direction with Dynamite.
Kate: I went into this event knowing nothing about these characters and basically having written them off as being male-gazed to death, and I’ve come out of it knowing some of them really well, and at least being able to identify others based on their costumes. But more than that, I’ve been persuaded to give them a chance in the future–and with Kate Leth writing the new Vampirella, why wouldn’t I give her a chance?
Amanda: What was that I said above about wanting more of these characters? Are you kidding me?! That wish was fulfilled awfully fast! I am SO on it.
Wendy: I am really happy about this announcement. It tells me that this whole effort wasn’t just a one-off, passing effort from Dynamite to be forgotten once it ends. The relaunches tell me that Dynamite is committed to these characters and wants them to be more than just objects. Swords of Sorrow opened the door for more readers to learn about and appreciate characters they may have been turned off of before because of how they had previously been presented. This follow through will hopefully bring in more readers who want to learn more and shows that sexy female characters can exist, but are far better when depicted in an empowering and respectful way.