In Review: Swords of Sorrow #1

In one issue, this has surpassed other companies' crossover events.

The covers: Dynamite Comics is not going small with this first issue mega-crossover series: there are 27 covers to collect. The A cover is by J. Scott Campbell with colors by Nei Ruffino. It features Vampirella flanked by Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris, each wielding swords, with Jana the Jungle Girl close to the ground, holding a wicked looking knife. This is a terrific cover with sensational coloring and is available as a signed or unsigned print. Yeah, Dynamite was thinking ahead after seeing this. The B is by Jenny Frison and was the one I had to purchase because I’ve become a huge fan of Frison’s work after seeing her covers on Vampirella and Red Sonja. This cover features Vampirella and Dejah in the back with Sonja front and center standing on a chunk of ice. I love that all three have have this series’ blades in their hands and the coloring is perfect. The C is another stunning cover, this time by Emanuela Lupacchino with colors by Ivan Nunes. The big three of this series are again spotlighted, though each also has part of their environment with them. Of all the covers for this series, this is the most lavish and it’s beautiful. The D is by Robert Hack and has him channeling Frank Thorne by creating a retro 70s looking Sonja standing atop a pile of bodies, some of which are still moving, with a look of indifference on her face, while a gigantic skull hangs in the sky, representing what she’s done. Very well done. The E is a Blank Authentix cover one could take to a convention to get a sketch on. The F is by Joyce Chin with colors again by Nunes. This cover features all the heroes and villains of this series, but I won’t say who the villains are as they’re not revealed until this issue’s final page. Each character looks amazing, and this should also be a print at some point. The F is by Tula Lotay, featuring Sonja sitting in the foreground, Vampirella striking a seductive pose behind her, and a gigantic close-up of Dejah behind both. The headdress on Dejah makes me think of Big Trouble in Little China. The H cover is by one of my favorite artists, Nei Ruffino. It features the big three in a valley, framed by a full moon. Vampirella is kneeling on the ground with her sword, Sonja looks to the right ready to strike, and Dejah is magnificent with her sword high and hair and cape swirling. This is my favorite image of Dejah of all the covers. Vampirella holds an attractive unconscious man in a graveyard and hisses a warning at readers who may be getting too close. This I cover is by Cedric Poulat and it’s terrific! The J is a black and white version of the C cover. The K cover is a “blood red” version of the A. The L is a rare “art board” cover of the A by Campbell. The M is the black and white version of the A. The N is the rare “virgin” cover featuring no text, just art. The O is the black and white version of the B. The P is the rare “virgin” cover of the C. The Q cover is limited to 50 copies and it’s the high-end “virgin” ultra-limited version of the F cover. The R is also limited to 50 copies and is the high-end “virgin” ultra-limited version of the F. Craig Tucker created the art and Dijjo Lima did the colors for the S cover which is a Comics and Friends exclusive showing the big three attacking a giant violet colored squid. It’s awesome to see all three in action on this. The T is a ComicXposure exclusive by Nei Ruffino–there can never be enough covers done by her–and it will connect to all 6 issues of this series. It features a forest setting with Jana laying on her back and Pantha bent low stroking a black panther. It’s gorgeous! The U is an exclusive for I Like Comics by Pete Woods. This has the big three running in different directions, swords held out, on a rocky islet surrounded by flaming lava. Excellent! The V is a Noble House Exclusive by Fabiano Neves. It features the big three with Jana in a plain desert setting. Nice, but missing some visual punch. The W is the Midtown Comics exclusive which is the “virgin” version of the H cover. Midtown Comics also has a second exclusive cover, the X, which is the black and white version of the H. The Y cover is a big visual change, with art by Kate Leth and colors by Paulina Ganucheau, showing the big three dressed like Valkyries, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering it’s the Beware the Valkyries exclusive. It looks more Manga than Asgardian. The Z is by Dave Acosta with colors by Lima exclusively for Green Brain Comics. This has a small Sonja at the bottom holding her sword upright, splitting the rest of the cover, which is divided between a profile of Vampirella screaming and Dejah looking at the double sunrise of Mars. Nice, but Sonja’s too small for my money. The AA is the Books-A-Million exclusive by Jae Lee with colors by June Chung. Against a blank background, the big three look to the right; Vampirella sitting on the rocky outcropping, Sonja shown completely in profile, and Dejah from the waist up. Very nice. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C A+, D B+, E C+, F A-, F B, H A+, I A+, J B+, K B, L B-, M B, N A, O A+, P A+, Q B, R A-, S A, T A+, U A, V C+, W A+, X A+, Y C+, Z C, and AA A

The story: “An unknown island, present day…” a ten year old boy and girl, dressed in primitive clothes are arguing over which gender tells the tribe what to do. “No girl commands me,” says the boy proudly, “not even Jana the Jungle Girl!” Cue Jana running out from foliage, “Run. Run!” She grabs the pair who are frozen with indecision, just as dinosaur of Tyrannosaurus proportions emerges from her entrance. Both children have dropped their dolls, with the girl’s mirroring the current state of Red Sonja in the Stygian desert during the Hyborian Age; in prone position with arms outstretched. She’s gone mad for lack of water in the desert, singing a sea shanty. The vultures circle above her, with one landing close, prompting her to say, “Soon enough. You’ll have your meal…How about another verse, friend?” Meanwhile, in present day Dublin, Ireland, Vampirella confronts a burly terror crow who’s about to eat a victim. Blade One: “Diving Towards Divinity” by Gail Simone has other heroines shown before revealing the character bringing them together with gifts of swords. Why this is being done by this unknown character is to stop a prince from bringing the universe to chaos. Elements of each character’s world falls into another’s creating havoc. Having each character receive a unique blade is an interesting way to unite the characters, even if they haven’t encountered each other. I was taken by how smoothly characters are introduced, the way in which their gifts were given, and what the villain is up to with his own army. It looks like Simone has crafted another classic. Overall grade: A+

The art: Absolutely beautiful work by Sergio Davila that doesn’t skimp on any of the details. The opening in the jungle is very well done, with Jana entering the scene cinematically, followed up with a dynamic rescue of the two children. The splash of the second page justifies her actions with the children. I like the speed lines issuing out in the bottom of the first two pages. The transition between the first and second panel on Page 3 is also movie quality and the vultures, considering what they represent, are stunningly realistic. Vampirella’s introduction is awesome and her opponent a marvelous muscular monster. The detail with her hair and his vest is wonderful. The rocks of Barsoom are lavish and the statuary impressive. I really like Davila’s constant shift in point of view with Pages 7 and 8, making the action that occurs intense. The double page spread of 10 and 11 is very strong, with the cape and smoke magnifying the reveal. I wish that this issue could have been longer so I could see what happened in the large panel on 20–it was a stellar tease that deserved much more time! Equally impressive is the book’s coda, with the throne of the villain being excellently sinister and the final page being a great reveal of the antagonists. Every page looked amazing. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The coloring on this book by Jorge Sutil beautifully compliments the artwork. The brown earth of the first page morphs into a strong orange when Jana grabs the two children, creating tension when the danger is still unseen. On the second page the threat is fully shown, and it’s backlit by a gorgeous orange sky, with it’s red tongue and puke-green slobber showing the horror that awaits the three. Sonja’s red hair makes her stand out against the yellows of the desert and the coloring on that vulture at the bottom of 3 is spectacular–Just look at the whites and violets Sutil uses. Vampirella’s setting is deliciously dim for night, while Barsoom’s rocks are rosy. Sutil also handsomely outlines certain dialogue balloons and panels in red, making their words and actions strong. The artwork on this book is excellent, but Sutil’s colors make it stunning. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene setting, dialogue, yells, opening title and credits, a song, a terror’s voice, the language of the Green Men, sounds, and the tease for next issue are created by Erica Schultz. I’m impressed that she can fit all of her work into each detailed panel without overshadowing an important visual. Being a John Carter fan, I was really impressed by her Green Men speech, as I haven’t seen that in the recent comics. Like the other contributors to this book, Schultz is bringing her A game. Overall grade: A+

The final line: In one issue, this has surpassed other companies’ crossover events. Superior art and story that show how crossover events should be done. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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