Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nostalgia Review: Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld 5

Granch kra-aaacks his way across the dimensions, Amy has a rough day at school, and we learn a little more about the Houses of Gemworld as we move closer to the halfway point of the story in the fifth issue, which has a cover date of September, 1983.


Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, “Battlegrounds!”
Written by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn
Art by Ernie Colón
Cover by George Pérez and Ernie Colón

Edited by Karen Berger

Even as he’s cracking their skulls – their ugly, ugly skulls – Granch tries reasoning with his imprisoned siblings, while also trying to get his hands back on the Amethyst fragment that serves as his only hope of ever returning to Gemworld.
While he’s failing to persuade them that he’s come to set them free and that he hates their father just as much as they do, he does catch site of the Amethyst fragment floating in the air and manages to grab hold of it, and, using his own limited sorcerous ability, he manages to reconnect it to its companion, allowing him to open a path back to Gemworld.  The sight of the “purple majip,” and the association with “Amethytht,” as Granch’s deformed kin put it, brings the battle to a halt long enough for Granch to use the stone to bundle his family up in a magical carrying case and open the portal that will lead them home.
On Earth, Amy returns to find a note from Marion letting her know that she and Herb are at work, which makes Amy realize that she ought to be in school, and she muses, on her way to class, that, “It’s bad enough I’m supposed to save Gemworld from Dark Opal when I’m Amethyst…but they expect me to get my math homework done, too!”
In class, Amy continues to be creeped out by her friend Rita’s Dark Opal pendant, and begins to wonder again if there’s some connection to her other life.  She concludes that there can’t be one, as Earth is Earth and Gemworld is Gemworld and the two can never intersect.  Or can they”  As she has the thought, her own gemstone begins to glow, a portal opens up, and Amy finds herself undergoing the transformation into Amethyst as Granch and his family fall from the sky.
It seems that when Granch tried to reconnect the Amethyst fragments he overshot the mark and connected with Amy’s pendant instead, leading him not to Gemworld, but to Earth, carrying a little of Gemworld’s magic with him.
Speaking of Gemworld, at Fortress Opal we follow up on the fate of Princess Emerald, who is in the presence of Dark Opal himself.  Opal explains to the young princess that he has a pact with all of the Royal Houses of Gemworld requiring that their heirs…serve him for a time.
As a kid, I wasn’t clear what he was getting at, despite the fact that he goes on to talk about how he has no real heirs of his own (a statement overheard by his adopted son, Prince Carnelian).
We learn that the pacts that he made with dark powers in order to assume his rule over Gemworld has come at a cost for Dark Opal.  While his oldest son, Granch, was nearly human, his birth killed his mother, and his attempts at coupling with hardier females from other realms led to the births of Granch’s deformed siblings, leaving him only with his adopted son, whose lack of magical ability leaves him, in Opal’s eyes, as kind of useless.
After providing his explanation, he asks Princess Emerald if she will honor her mother’s agreement and serve him.  She tearfully states that we will, and we cut to the leering face on Dark Opal’s cameo.
Being older now, I assume that when Opal says “serve him” he means sexually, presumably in the hopes of producing a non-deformed heir, but given that not all of the heirs of the Houses of Gemworld are female…well, he could still be requiring that they all serve him sexually, it’s just that not all of them are doing so in order to provide him an heir.
If we do assume that, in this case at least, the service is of a sexual nature, the whole thing becomes that much more disturbing, because on the very next page, as we meet the members of the House of Diamond, we learn that Princess Emerald is now dead.
I’m not certain of what the implications are – is it that Dark Opal is so twisted and corrupted as a result of the dark forces he’s opened himself up to that just having sex with him is instantly fatal, or is there a more mundane, and in many ways more horrifying, explanation?  Is Opal just a depraved, homicidal sexual sadist?
Did he have sex with her at all?  Was she some sort of sacrifice as part of those aforementioned pacts with dark forces?  Did he just kill her for the sheer hell of it?
Whatever the case, as we’re introduced to the House of Diamond, we learn that when a Royal Heir dies his or her magical essence is transferred into the Diamond gemstone to be stored until the next noble birth.  In the meantime, the power associated with that essence is at the disposal of the House of Diamond, which, unlike the other Houses which consist of standard families, is made up of a group of white robed men and women who appear to think with a group mind.
They note that, given the dearth of Royal Heirs that has been in place since Dark Opal killed Lady and Lord Amethyst, the power of Diamond is at an all-time high, perhaps even sufficient for the House of Diamond to mount a challenge to Dark Opal.  However, they conclude that this is not a risk they are willing to take.  Yet.
On Earth, Amethyst is taking advantage of the magical spillover from Gemworld to help Granch round up his rowdy siblings, though their conflict has not gone unnoticed, given that it’s taking place while school is in session at a suburban high school.  Herb and Marion are on the scene, as, upon learning that Amy had actually showed up for school that day, they decided to meet there and have a lunchtime discussion with their frequently-absent daughter.
They catch sight of Amethyst and recognize her as a grown-up Amy, who lets them know she’ll explain everything once she’s finished dealing with the mess.  The sight of Amethyst causes some additional intra-family conflict, as some of Granch’s siblings, recognizing her as their father’s enemy, begin to find Granch’s argument persuasive, while others conclude that it’s a trick.
Once Amethyst wraps up most of Opal’s deformed children, only one – the biggest – remains, who, in fear of being hurt by Granch and the assembled police, decides to hurt them first, until Marion, using her mad Child Psychologist skillz, intervenes and recognizing that despite his size he’s really little more than a child, manages to talk him down.
While on Earth a family reunion is taking place between Granch and his siblings and the Winstons and Amy, on Gemworld, the Lady Emerald remains distraught over having to send her oldest daughter off to Dark Opal, and the younger Princess Emerald has – though her aide has pointed out that it’s improper – taken over her mother’s responsibilities.  Things aren’t going to get any better, as Lady Emerald’s magic lets her know that her daughter is now lost to her forever.
At the House of Topaz, the young Prince is reluctantly preparing for his Dark Opal-ordered wedding to Lady Sapphire, though he remains insistent that Amethyst is the woman he loves.
With the conflict finally ended on Earth, Granch and family make their way back to Gemworld, while Amethyst tells Herb and Marion that they have much to discuss, including the fact that she is going to have to go away for a long, long time.
Up next, Amy explains it all, Granch and family head off to commit patricide, and Amethyst moves on to a post-secondary education, including some very intensive PE, and makes some friends at her new school.

Some Thoughts:
As mentioned, I remain uncertain as to what, exactly, happened between Dark Opal and Princess Emerald, though I’m also reasonably certain that I don’t actually want to know.
I continue to not care about Prince Topaz at all; he reminds me of the foppish prince from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
In the scene with Prince Topaz, however, we get the first mention of Lady Turquoise – as well as an indication of her personality – who will prove to be an important character once we meet her as the story progresses.
The House of Diamond is also an interesting concept, and, just as with the suffering of poor Lady Emerald over the loss of her daughter – and the scenes in which we see Prince Carnelian overhearing what his father really thinks of him – the fleeting glimpse we get of this particular House will also become an important part of the story’s ultimate conclusion.
In a less compressed format, it might have been interesting to further explore Amy’s struggle to balance her life on Gemworld as a Princess and her life on Earth as an average teenager, but unfortunately the limited number of issues didn’t really allow for that.  Even so, I would have liked to have seen a little more of the fallout of the collision of the two different aspects of who she is that resulted from Granch’s unexpected intrusion.

The Art:
As is so often the case, the art here really excels at conveying the brutality of some of the fights; you can almost feel the blows that Granch lands – and takes – as he fights with his hideously deformed siblings.
In the next issue I’ll start getting into comparisons to the story of another young person whose ordinary life is turned upside down upon discovering that there is another world full of magic that is unseen by most, and a deadly enemy waiting in the shadows, but for now I’ll restrict myself to mentioning some of the incidental elements of Amethyst as they compare to similar elements in the stories about that other Chosen One.
Obviously, my attempts at being coy aside, I’m talking about Harry Potter, and more specifically I’m talking about the elements of “whimsy” contained in the stories of Amy and Harry.
In HP, the whimsy annoys the living shit of me.  It’s obtrusive, it’s dangerous, and it’s not particularly charming, frankly.  “Oh, look, the stairwells move around.  That’s…that’s a pain in the ass, actually.  Stupid stairs; I’m late for class now!”
And honestly, why would you even plant a tree that tries to kill anything that goes near it, especially on the grounds of a fucking school?  There are kids there, for fuck’s sake!  Hogwart’s is a class action lawsuit waiting to happen.
In contrast, the whimsical elements of Amethyst don’t really detract from the story, or even figure into it terribly prominently, but they do add to the overall sense of “otherness” of Gemworld, and Ernie Colón does an excellent job of seamlessly incorporating them into the background, and, when the story calls for it, bringing them to the foreground, such as in that panel with the close-up of the leering face of Dark Opal’s pendant as he enfolds Princess Emerald in his cloak.

Admittedly, it is less creepy than that scene when Voldemort awkwardly hugs Malfoy in the last movie.

If this comic were from the present, it would be a "Me Gusta" face.

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