Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nostalgia Review: Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld 6

I’ve been at this for six weeks already?  Huh.
In any case, Amy goes home to sit down and have a serious chat with the ‘rents, while Granch and siblings go home to see their dad, but are hoping for more splat and less chat, as we take a look at the sixth issue, cover-dated October, 1983.

What's a magic princess without a flying horse?

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

Edited by Karen Berger

In reading Amethyst again after so many years, I found myself thinking about many of the similarities the story shares with the Harry Potter series, which is something I had not thought about in the time between readings, even though in the interim I had read the books and seen all of the movies.
After all, Amy, like Harry, was orphaned as the result of the actions of an evil wizard, and for her own protection she was taken away from her home and hidden away for her own safety in a less magical – but safer – place until the time came for her to reclaim her birthright and avenge her parents.
Obviously there are major differences, and I’m in no way suggesting that Rowling drew any inspiration from Amethyst – indeed, I doubt that she was even aware that the comic existed – but seeing the similarities did make me realize that, while overall I enjoyed the HP books and movies, to the extent that I often found myself annoyed by them, it was because of Amethyst.
In distilling my problems with the HP series down to a simple statement, I’ve generally chalked it up to the fact that Harry is kind of an idiot.
There are other things I have problems with, most of them relating to the Wizarding World, which I won’t get into here, but that’s always been my chief complaint, and I realized that that part of the reason it bothered me so much is that Harry Potter was even more of an idiot when compared to Amy Winston.
We’ll get into that in a bit, but for now, let’s pick up where we left off, with Amy, who is still on Earth in Amethyst form thanks to the residual Gemworld energies that Granch and family brought with them, taking Herb and Marion home to explain what just happened and what’s been happening ever since her first disappearance the night of her thirteenth birthday.
She uses the last of the mystic energy to fly them all back to their suburban home, and once the energy wears off and she turns back into regular Amy Winston, she starts to tell them what happened.
Given that this story was written in the 1980s, prior to the advent of “decompression” in comic book storytelling, we’re spared the full recap, which happens entirely between panels.
After hearing her story, Herb and Marion tell her that they always feared this day might come, and we learn about the day Amy entered their lives.
It seems that thirteen years earlier they were in the hospital, where Marion had just given birth.  Unfortunately, there were complications and the baby died.  As the doctor was delivering the news, Citrina appeared carrying the infant Amethyst, wordlessly presented the child to Marion, and then vanished.
All assembled decided to pretend that didn’t just happen, the doctor corrected his previous statement, saying, “Now what was I just saying?  Yes – a perfect delivery and a perfect baby,” and Marion decided that the child would be named Amy, which Herb stated “somehow seemed right.”
With that piece of the puzzle finally in place, Amy tells them that it’s time for her to return to her real home to discharge her obligations, but promises that she will return when it’s all over.
On Gemworld, days have passed, and in that time Granch and his siblings have ridden off for Fortress Opal.  Amethyst wants to fly to their side to help, but Citrina tells her that she could not arrive in time and still be ready for battle.
So instead, she stays behind to prepare for her own inevitable confrontation with Dark Opal.  The failure of Granch, it seems, is a foregone conclusion.
This preparation involves finally getting a formal education in the use of her powers, and in all of the other combat skills she will need if she hopes to defeat Dark Opal.
Again, there was no such thing as decompression in those days, so we essentially get a sports training montage.
Despite the condensed nature of the training, this is one of the many areas in which, in my estimation, Amy > Harry.  Harry, after all, could be described most charitably as an indifferent student, and it’s clear that his role as “The Boy Who Lived” has very little to do with any real effort on his part to ensure his own survival.  Seriously, if I knew I had an evil, powerful wizard out to kill me and I was at a place where I could learn the skills I need to defend myself, I wouldn’t be wasting my time flying around on a goddamn broom chasing after a flying ball.
Amy, it seems, is more inclined towards my way of thinking, and throws herself into her training with an appropriate level of gusto, and it pays off.
Of course, to be fair to Harry, Amethyst is essentially going through boot camp rather than high school, and the system of magic on Gemworld is very different than the spell-based magic of Harry’s world, but the fact remains that Amethyst clearly takes her education much more seriously.
Checking in on Granch, we find that he and his siblings have finally made it home.  Though Opal would like to think otherwise, the fact remains that they are his children, and as such they all have some ability to utilize the power of the Opal stone itself.  They can’t take control, but they can use it to cast a spell that dampens the magical abilities of everyone in the Fortress, thereby leveling the playing field a bit and making it a battle of steel, muscle, and, in Carnelian’s case, lead, rather than one of spells and conjurings.
As they cut through Opal’s guards, they take heavy losses, and ultimately it’s down to Granch, the big, nameless one who got talked down by Marion last issue, and their addled sister, who is herself a source of “wild magic,” which is unaffected by the dampening spell they cast.  The three of them break through to face off against Dark Opal, Carnelian, and Sardonyx.
Back at Castle Amethyst, the Princess continues her training, but is interrupted by the appearance of Lord Garnet, an old friend of her parents, who has arrived to pledge his loyalty to Amethyst, and has brought a gift:  a flying horse.
After taking a joyride, Amethyst sits down with Garnet and Citrina to talk business.  Garnet insists that the time is right rally the Houses of Gemworld against Dark Opal, and that the upcoming wedding of Lady Sapphire and Prince Topaz is the perfect opportunity to spoil one of Opal’s plans and to appeal to the other Houses, all of whom will be assembled for the ceremony.
In Fortress Opal, Carnelian pops a cap in the big guy, and prepares to do the same to their sister.  Thinking fast, Granch grabs a handful of the magical energy that swirls about her – and causes her constant pain – and hurls it at Carnelian, causing the gun to explode in his hand and taking the Red Prince out of the fight.  The sister, meanwhile, knocks Sardonyx out cold, but gets a sword through the heart for her troubles, leaving only Granch and Dark Opal standing.
Feeling cocky, Opal decides that he can kill his son with his bare hands, and the two end up locked in combat, during which Opal realizes that he’s made a huge mistake.
Granch busily chokes a bitch, but Opal draws on the power of the dark pacts he’s made, and is able to break free and turn the tide of battle.
We quickly check in on Prince Bland Topaz, who – surprise! – is mooning over Amethyst.  While giving him another lecture about how he has no choice but to marry Lady Sapphire, Lord Topaz realizes just how strongly his son feels about Amethyst, and hints that there just might be a way out of the wedding…
Granch, meanwhile, is not doing so well.

Ah, Granch, how the cr-racks! have turned.

While Granch writhes in agony, unable to move, Opal reaches for his sword, and tells Granch that he may have been worthy of being his son after all, given how desperately Opal had to fight to defeat him.
He salutes his son, then kills him.
At Castle Amethyst, the Princess wakes with a scream, as she feels the passing of her friend.
But she’s not going to waste her time moping – the death of Granch has made it clear that she has to step things up in her battle with Dark Opal, and in the end only one of them will survive.
Up next:  Look!  Up in the sky!  It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  It’s…Amethyst?

Some Thoughts:
*Sniff*  R.I.P. Granch.
I mentioned decompression – or the lack thereof – a couple of times.  I don’t dislike decompression, though it can often come across a being nothing more than padding, but there is something to be said for the more compressed nature of storytelling that was the norm before that approach came along.
After all, despite the fact that we really didn’t know him that well, as there was no time for any major character arc providing detailed background on who he was, the death of Granch has power.  That this happened with a character who got a few pages here and there in the course of a scant six issues is a testament to what can be done to develop a character and story that resonates with the reader without some sprawling backstory and a lot of padding.
As for my comparisons between Harry and Amy, I suppose that there’s something to be said for the fact that Amy doesn’t have as many people to rely on as Harry does.  Amy, after all, has to be Ron and Hermione, fulfilling those roles for herself in a way that Harry doesn’t.
And to be fair, while Gemworld is obviously cooler and more exciting than suburban Illinois, Amy’s home life wasn’t exactly awful, as she had parents who loved her, unlike Harry, so I suppose that it makes sense that he would be a little more inclined to explore the fun side of living in the Wizarding World.
However, I still think Amy is smarter.

The Art:There was a little less creepiness this issue, which is an area in which Colón excels, but it’s still a pretty solid effort all around.  The battle between Granch and his father is pretty brutal, which lends a lot to the overall powerful nature of the death of Granch.

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