Sword of Ages: Action-Packed Ode to a Legend

Sword of Ages #3 cover B by Gabriel Rodriguez. Published by IDW Publishing. April 11, 2018

Sword of Ages #3

Gabriel Rodriguez (writer and artist), Lovern Kindzierski (colourist), Robbie Robbins (letterer)
IDW Publishing
11 April, 2018

Warrior Avalon has taken hold of a powerful weapon—a sacred blade embedded in crystal for years. Chosen by the sword, Avalon hopes to wield it in a bid to bring peace to her planet. Alongside her are Lancer, Gawyn, and Trystan, erstwhile contenders for the sword and now her uneasy allies. Whereas Monk Trystan actively wants to join Avalon’s mission, Lancer reluctantly agrees to go along. Gawyn has no interest in helping Avalon but decides to travel with the party for a while.

Sword of Ages #3 cover A by Gabriel Rodriguez. Published by IDW Publishing. April 11, 2018

Unbeknownst to our heroine, power-hungry Boss Ourgon, leader of the Red Clan, challenges Lord Huss, leader of the White Monks, to the God’s fight. Lord Huss thinks he is more than up for the challenge but he underestimates Ourgon’s deceptive methods, despite his magician Merlin’s advice. Can Avalon and her group arrive in time to save Lord Huss and his people?

We at Women Write about Comics enjoyed the first issue of Sword of Ages and the story has continued to impress. This third issue is packed with action and intrigue, drawing even more from the Arthurian legends that creator, Eisner Award-winner Gabriel Rodriguez, has cited as the series’ chief influence.

Sword of Ages doesn’t just retell Arthurian legends, though. It is a re-imagining of the legend. The names are similar but not the same. The story transmutes King Arthur into a young Swordswoman and surrounds her with aliens. The story’s central conceit makes it more relatable—whether or not you are a fan of the Arthurian legends—and also allows for the world-building to be more organic. As often as we have encountered retellings of King Arthur, this fresh take is definitely welcome. And when it looks this beautiful, it is even better.

The world-building is remarkable in this series. Rodriguez, the writer and artist on Sword of Ages, has managed to create an immersive, hyperreal experience. He has created a fully reimagined world that is packed with more detail than you can take in after just one reading. From the characters to the creatures, from the locations to the vehicles, not a single line of colour appears to be out of place. Even the supporting characters are drawn with distinct detail, their faces showing a wealth of personality.

The packed detail makes each story incredibly rich but it has its downside. Sword of Ages is meant to be a five-issue series but, after reading the third book, it does not look like the story is anywhere close to a fulfilling resolution. In all honesty, so much has happened in these first three issues that I feel like Rodriguez will have no choice but to expand on the series. There are so many characters that we know so little about—I would even include protagonist Avalon in that list—that an expanded universe will be the only way to do right by them.

There is more than enough material here for several spin-offs—as Rodriguez has hinted at making—probably even the potential for an entire franchise, if Sword of Ages can get the kind of love it deserves. Rodriguez clearly has this world mapped out in his mind; he just needs the space and time to expand on it.

Sword of Ages #3 page 16 by Gabriel Rodriguez. Published by IDW Publishing. April 11, 2018

Speaking of Avalon, the lead character has managed to steal the show in every issue and this one is no different. It is always a relief to see a female character whose defining characteristic isn’t that she is female. Avalon is a skilled warrior but also a strategist. She is determined to complete whatever tasks she encounters. She is slightly lacking in social graces but still manages to put others around her at ease and makes friends quickly.

We have seen Avalon be spunky and moralistic, but in this book, we see that her heroism doesn’t make her infallible. Avalon encounters the devastating results of her attempt to teach a group of slavers a harsh lesson. She needs her wits to get her by and has to make crucial decisions that will affect those around her. She is not immune to being judgmental, as evidenced by the opening pages of this book when she toys with the idea of leaving her less-reliable teammates behind. In the end, she concedes she needs their help.

My main concern about this series is that it is veering dangerously close to making Avalon the sole female character in the midst of a group of men. The smattering of female characters among the Red Clan and the White Monks do not get enough space on the page. One can only hope that the final two issues rectify this issue.

Sword of Ages continues to be a visually stunning journey through an elevated battle between good and evil. It is the kind of fantasy fare that shows how expansive a creator’s imagination can be. The series is doing a lot of things right but if it continues to add more detail instead of reaching its denouement, it may end up alienating readers. For the moment, however, we eagerly await the next issue.

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir