Monday, January 21, 2013

Nostalgia Review: Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld

After essentially lying dormant for a very long time, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld has seen something of a revival of late.
The character serves as the lead in DC’s new series Sword of Sorcery.
The broad strokes are the same – young Amy Winston is a mostly-normal teenage girl who learns that she’s actually a magical princess from a place called Gemworld – but the character and story are very different from what was first presented in a special preview insert in Legion of Super-Heroes #298 back in 1983.*
(More on this new version of Amethyst in a bit.)
She’s also starring in a series of animated shorts appearing during Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block.
(I don’t care for the pseudo-anime style, but the most recent installment was actually pretty entertaining.)
I’m glad to see Amy/Amethyst getting her due, even though the nostalgic, “Everything has to be the same as I remember!” comic book geek in me isn’t entirely pleased with the changes, and, like Chris Sims of Comics Alliance, I’m kind of baffled by the indecisive approach that DC is taking when it comes to getting the character’s name out there.
The shorts on CN seem to be targeted very specifically towards younger audiences, and, most notably, and sensibly, all things considered, towards young girls.
The current comic book version, however, even though it’s written by one of the writers of Jem and the Holograms, has a more “adult” sensibility.
However, while I understand his main point, I don’t share Sims’s shock and outrage at the inclusion of an attempted sexual assault in the new comic – or attempted gang rape, to be blunt – because, well, the original Amethyst was kinda rapey right from the get-go.
And on that note, let’s get started with my review of Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #1.

Note:  These reviews will contain spoilers…for a comic book from 1983.  You’ve been warned.

Where the Action Is!

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, “The Birthright”
Written by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn
Art and Cover by Ernie Colón
Edited by Karen Berger

Our story opens with a title page showing a sleeping girl being transported – and transformed in the process – to fantastic world of armored warriors and strange creatures.
You have shared the child’s dream:  The dream of a lost legacy – that your parents are not really your parents….that you are a foundling, a changeling child – and the orphaned heir to a mystic throne!
You have known the dream and then forgotten…but Amy Winston still remembers – because for Amy, it is no dream!
Well, that’s suitably dramatic.
The first page of actual story features a small, strange lizard creature stepping through a portal into what appears to be a typical suburban household.  The creature is carrying some sort of package, and makes its way to a table upon which a present sits.  Taking the present and unwrapping it, the lizard proceeds to tie a ribbon around the package it carried through the portal and puts it in place of the present before being chased away by the family dog.
The dog gives up the chase once she hears the sound of her mistress.
This is when we first officially meet Amy, along with her parents – or rather “parents” – Marion and Herb Winston.
The family is returning from a birthday dinner, which Amy rushed through in order to get home to open her present, though it’s not the gift that Herb and Marion had given her.  Instead, she finds a pendant consisting of a large purple gem.  Her parents are confused, but seeing how happy Amy is with her gift, they keep their misgivings to themselves.
Amy’s happiness doesn’t last long, however, as her musings about how receiving jewelry seems to indicate that her parents recognize that, at 13, she’s no longer a little girl, as she prepares for bed are interrupted by the sudden appearance of a huge, ugly ogre who grabs her and hauls her through a portal, informing her that he is bringing her to “Fortress Opal.”  As the two move between dimensions, Amy’s thoughts about no longer being a little girl are made manifest, as she finds herself changing and growing, and it is not Amy Winston who steps out of the portal on the other side, but rather the beautiful, fully-grown Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld.
Once she arrives, she meets the evil Sardonyx for the first time, who informs her that she is going to die without ever knowing what’s actually happening to her, though Sardonyx indicates that her great beauty might lead to his master to delay her execution for a little while.
Amy/Amethyst is then hauled away by two ogres, who decide that Sardonyx might have had the right idea, and so, on page 6, we encounter the very first – but not last – attempted rape.
In the course of her struggles, Amethyst instinctively lashes out and a beam of violet energy shoots out from her pendant, knocking the ogre back.
Amethyst doesn’t know how to use her power well enough to actually harm the ogre, but she does make him mad, and he pulls out his blade to make her pay.
This is the last thing the ogre ever does, as we are now introduced to a new character, whom we will learn is named Granch.
Mother-fucking Granch, the baddest of badasses.
Granch has no patience for rapey ogres, and quickly dispatches them with a brutal efficiency that would put Liam Neeson in Taken to shame:

Granch has a very specific set of skills.

Granch quickly convinces Amethyst that he’s a friend and that she must leave with him immediately, and soon, while being pursued, they meet up with the Witch-Mother Citrina, who is delighted at the sight of Amethyst and promises her that all will be revealed.
While Granch holds off their pursuers, Citrina and Amethyst take to the air, flying to Castle Amethyst, which is a spectacular sight, but we learn that the violet realm has fallen on hard times and was once far more grand.
Regardless, Amethyst can’t help but feel overcome by the fact that, strange as this place may be, it feels like home.
Finally, Citrina gives Amethyst the answers she’s been looking for.
This is a world of magic called Gemworld, a world ruled by twelve great houses, each one capped by a gemstone of immense magical power which can only be wielded by those of royal blood.
The greatest house, in years past, had been the House of Amethyst, and its Lord and Lady – Amethyst’s real parents – had ruled over all of Gemworld.  However, shortly after the birth of the princess, the evil Dark Opal waged a war against all the houses, which ultimately led to the death of Lord and Lady Amethyst, and the ascension of Dark Opal to absolute monarch of all of Gemworld.
However, Citrina had managed to rescue the infant princess and carried her away to another world and left her with a loving couple to keep her safe until the day she could return, defeat Dark Opal, and reclaim her rightful position.
Due to the magical nature of Gemworld, time flows differently there than it does on Earth, and while only thirteen years passed for Amy, twenty years had passed on Gemworld, which is why Amy is a teenager and Amethyst is a young woman.
This all proves to be a bit much for Amethyst to take, and she demands to be returned to the only home she’s ever known.  Citrina agrees, but before she can comply, the castle is attacked by Sardonyx and his armies.
The aged Citrina isn’t up to the task of fending off the power of Sardonyx, and Amethyst is forced to learn to use the power that is her birthright, which she does with a devastating display that sets Sardonyx and his men scampering away in defeat.
However, Amethyst still wishes to return home, and so Citrina shows her how to use her pendant to open a portal, letting her know that if she ever changes her mind, Gemworld is only a wish away.
Back on Earth only a few seconds have passed, and Herb and Marion rush to Amy’s room in response to the scream she let fly when the ogre appeared.  They find a confused Amy who shrugs it all off as merely a dream “…or a nightmare…or…something…”
Meanwhile – if the term can have any meaning, given the difference in the flow of time – on Gemworld we officially meet Dark Opal, who is none too pleased with Sardonyx for failing to deliver Amethyst.  Sardonyx, attempting to defend his failure, states, “Her potential is awesome, Lord!  If you had seen…  I tremble to consider her power once she has been tutored!  She must be stopped!”
Opal responds, “That, dear friend, is precisely why I entrusted you with her capture!”
He then goes on to state that he has sent another to fetch the princess, and warns Sardonyx to stay out of his sight.
In the Winston household, Herb and Marion are tucking Amy in, and assuring her that the family dog – Taffy – will be there to keep her safe.  However, they express misgivings once they’re in the hallway, as it’s clear that for a few minutes, Amy was actually gone.  But…gone where?
Amy, meanwhile, is convinced that it wasn’t a dream, and she informs Taffy that she has to know for sure.  As a test, she opens a portal to Gemworld.  Promising to return right away, she steps through and finds herself in a corridor in Castle Amethyst.
Unfortunately, she’s not alone, as a knife-wielding figure observes her from the shadows.
And that ends the first issue.
Up next, we meet the Red Prince – Carnelian, adopted son of Dark Opal.

*While I have the complete run of the actual Amethyst maxi-series, I don’t actually have that issue of LoSH featuring the preview.  I may have to remedy that.


Merlin T Wizard said...

That's a great summary, but not much of a review. No critique?

Jon-Paul Maki said...

So, in theory, this is going to be a comprehensive review of the entire maxi-series, broken up into (at least) an equal number of parts.
I'll get more in-depth as I go along, discussing some specific aspects of the art and writing, and I'll even be doing some intertexual examination by comparing it to a series about a certain other orphaned youngster who's transported to a magical world and forced to face a powerful, evil enemy...
For now, I just wanted to get into the basic set up.

Merlin T Wizard said...

Fair enough.