Saturday, February 09, 2013

Nostalgia Review: Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld 4

As we begin to progress in the story, Amethyst finally finds herself forced to face off against Dark Opal himself, while Granch continues his quest to gather additional allies for the House of Amethyst in the struggle against Dark Opal from among his banished siblings, the deformed and monstrous children of Dark Opal himself.
All that and more is found in the fourth issue, cover dated August, 1983.

Run, Amethyst, run!

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, “Dark Journeys!”
Written by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn
Art and Cover by Ernie Colón

Edited by Karen Berger

When last we checked in with the young Princess Amethyst – and the even younger Amy Winston – she was making the journey back to Gemworld from Earth, in full view of her adoptive father Herb.
Despite the fact that in the last panel of that issue Amy was looking back over her shoulder and saw Herb staring in disbelief as his daughter stepped into another world, as we find her appearing in Castle Amethyst, her thoughts are on the process of transformation that occurs as she changes from thirteen year-old Amy to twenty year-old Amethyst, with nary a thought about what just happened back on Earth.  I’m not sure if this represents an error in continuity on the part of the writers, or if it was an error in the art of the last issue.
Regardless, Amethyst has little time for musing, as she is immediately greeted with a scream upon her arrival.  Investigating the cause, Amethyst finds the Witch-Mother Citrina in a catatonic state, as her spirit has been captured by Dark Opal.  Amethyst casts a spell in an attempt to determine the cause, and the image of Dark Opal reveals itself.
With the encouragement of Citrina’s handmaiden, Amethyst then approaches Citrina and tries to communicate with her.
In yet another of the many images that freaked me out as a kid, Citina's voice calls out to warn Amethyst to stay back, as a strange frog-like creature comes crawling out of the Witch-Mother’s mouth.  The creature grows rapidly, and faster than you can say hentai, it sprouts tentacles that entangle Amethyst, and it then disappears, taking her with it.
I want to take a moment to talk about Citrina’s handmaiden, Fawna.  Back in the second issue, Carnelian made a reference to having someone loyal to Dark Opal on the inside at Castle Amethyst.  While it was never explicitly stated in the original maxi-series – it may have come out in the ongoing series that launched some time later – I always assumed it was Fawna, given the otherwise inexplicable evil grin that she has on her face whenever something bad happens.
Either that or she was just kind of a bitch.
Back on Earth, Herb has informed Marion of what he’s seen, and tells her that they finally have to accept the truth:  their daughter is not a native, and has returned to wherever it is she does hail from.
We move from one lost daughter to another, as back on Gemworld we finally get to meet the members of one of the other Houses, in this case the House of Emerald.  It seems that oldest daughter is leaving home, though not by her – or her mother’s – choice, but according to the will of Dark Opal.  This will actually prove to be a fairly pivotal moment in the overall story, though that’s not immediately clear.
It also highlights one of the things that always bothered me about the worldbuilding efforts of Mishkin and Cohn when it comes to the nature of life on Gemworld:  names.
On Gemworld, Amy learns that her real name is Amethyst, and she lives in Castle Amethyst, in the land of Amethyst, and she is the daughter of Lord and Lady Amethyst.  Given that she’s the only surviving member of the family, I suppose that it’s less confusing that everyone in the family has the same name, and even if her parents were still alive, they could at least distinguish between each other through the use of titles – Lord, Lady, and Princess.
But we run into a problem with the House of Emerald, which was – until recently, at least – the home to Lady Emerald and her three daughters, Princess Emerald, Princess Emerald, and Princess Emerald.
Later in this issue we’ll also travel to the House of Topaz, home to Lord Topaz, his daughter, Topaz, and his son, Topaz.
Maybe George Foreman, with his sons George, is also a native of Gemworld.
It gets even more bothersome when we consider the House of Opal, where the head of the family is named Dark Opal, instead of Lord Opal, and his son and heir, rather than being Prince Opal, is Prince Carnelian.  And why did Granch get a name, particularly one that has nothing to do with gemstones at all?
Speaking of Granch, while he’s off in search of his siblings – who actually don’t have names at all, even though they, too, should all be named Opal – inside the belly of the beast he killed last issue, he left one fragment of the Amethyst outside the portal to the nether dimension so that the mystic thread connecting it to the fragment he carries can lead him back out.  Unfortunately, the glittering gemstone has captured the attention of one Gemworld’s curious little lizard creatures…
As for the other son of Opal, Carnelian, he’s intercepted the carriage transporting Princess Emerald to Fortress Opal, and intends to escort her the rest of the way personally.
While things look bleak for this particular Princess Emerald, they also aren’t looking good for Granch, as the curious lizard absconds with the Amethyst fragment, and the mouth of the dead beast snaps shut, severing its connection to the fragment Granch carries, leaving him stranded with his siblings who seem none too pleased to be reunited with their oldest brother.
As for Amethyst, she finds herself forced to square off against Dark Opal, and while she appears to be holding her own, she’s no match for him in his place of power.  With some quick thinking, she redirects Opal’s attack on her, using it to free the spirit form of Citrina from the magical web Opal had trapped her in, and the two make their escape back to Castle Amethyst.
Dark Opal doesn’t give up so easily, however, and reaches through the portal they used to escape, grabbing Amethyst by the hair.  (And bringing a smile to Fawna’s face.)
Citrina manages to wrest Amethyst free from Opal’s grip and close the portal, and she also does…something to Opal’s hand.  What that is, exactly, is unclear.  I had initially assumed that she cut it off by closing the portal around it, and that the weird glow emanating from where the hand had been is meant to be Opal bleeding light or something, particularly given the way Opal hides it under his cloak, but in the next issue we learn that’s not the case.
In fact, it isn’t mentioned again for several issues, and even then it’s not clear what, exactly, she did, other than to make it kind of...glowy.  Still, apparently it hurt.
(It brings to mind that episode of Family Guy in which the family gets super powers, but all Meg can do is make her fingernails grow. After she scratches someone:  “Did it break the skin?  No.  Still, ouch, though.”)
After Opal makes his requisite vow to have his revenge, referring to his own history with the Witch-Mother when she used to serve his father, we meet, as promised, the Topaz family, where we learn that the young – and utterly dreamy – Prince Topaz had caught a glimpse of Amethyst when she was initially captured and brought to Gemworld and it was love at first sight.  Unfortunately, as his sister, Princess Topaz is quick to point out, he is SOL as far as Amethyst is concerned, as he is currently betrothed to the Lady Sapphire, according to the will of Dark Opal himself.
So naturally he’s going to do what he’s required to do, marry Lady Sapphire, forget all about Amethyst, and that’s the last we’ll be hearing of that, right?
Anyway, flush with her little victory over Opal, Amethyst is feeling good about herself, channeling her inner Shania Twain and letting Citrina know that man, she feels like a woman.
Citrina asks if this means that she’s ready to fulfill her destiny, leave her childhood – and with it the Earth itself – behind, and move to Gemworld full time.
She lets Citrina know that she is ready, but she still needs to have a talk with the ‘rents.
Inside the nether dimension, Granch is trying to reason with his nameless siblings, who suspect that their father has sent him to kill them.  Of course, unlike snapping necks, reasoning isn’t really Granch’s strong suit, so they don’t believe him when he tells them he left home years before in protest of the treatment they had received from their father, and we close with Granch fighting for his life, having lost his grip on the Amethyst fragment, and with it even the faintest glimmer of hope of ever getting out of there alive even if his family doesn’t manage to kill him.
Next time:  Amethyst, Princess of…Earth?

Some Thoughts:
As mentioned, the whole thing about names bothered me a lot throughout my reading of the story.  It strikes me as just being something that they didn’t think through – or think about at all - as they wrote the story.
Interestingly enough, in the more recent incarnation of the character – and the world – appearing in Sword of Sorcery – the cancellation of which has been announced recently – Amethyst does have an actual name that is distinct from her home, family, and gemstone, as do the members of the other Houses, and I don’t like it.  I guess there’s no pleasing me.
On a more positive note, one of the things I always liked was how quick-thinking Amethyst was and the way she could turn a disadvantage into an advantage.
I never particularly liked Prince Topaz, and while it was immediately apparent that he was intended to be the love interest for Amethyst, young Jon didn’t think he was good enough for her.  There may have been some jealousy involved.
Old Jon still doesn’t think he’s good enough for her, but that’s more of a recognition of how utterly useless he eventually proves to be.

The Art:
As always, the art contributes a great deal to the story, not only through the throwaway whimsical elements, such as the little cameo clasp that Dark Opal wears on his cloak which has a carved face that changes its expression to mirror his – and sometimes takes on an expression of its own – and the various odd creatures that inhabit the land, but also in the subtle touches, like the evil grin on Fawna’s face.
Beyond that, he knows how to deliver the creepy.  That frog thing that crawls out of Citrina’s mouth…ick.
Also, while he may be an evil dick, I can’t really fault Dark Opal for not wanting his kids around.  After all, they certainly got no alibi – they ugly.

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