What's up, Party People?!?The Sword # 23
By the Luna Brothers
Published by Image Comics
Oh man, I can hardly calm down to type this in any sort of constructive manner. I wanna skip to the end! What the $%^*?!?!? This story just took a crazy sideways turn that makes you, me, everyone reading have to go, "Hold up. Wait a min.....wait just a second. If he is...then how.... Is everything he told her.... SHIT!"
Okay, it's all still vague enough (like me! I am trying to not spoil anything for you, because this issue had a really, really unexpected twist) that a reader can't really go back and figure out what's true and what's false and what's really going on, because there's just not enough information yet. It's a last page twist, and it's a gut-puncher, but the next--and last! oh my!--issue is, i'm assuming, where the explanation will come. The bigger question is, what now? The whole story which seemed like it was heading towards conclusion and then it just sat up and said, "oh, you think this was the story? NOPE. THIS is the real story."
Okay, so the next issue is supposed to be the last, right? And, look, I'm really sad about that. Maybe I don't have to be? Maybe the next issue will wrap up The Sword as we know it, BUT set the stage for a whole new series!!! And I won't have to say bye-bye to the Luna Brothers or Dara or even The Sword? I mean, could it be true? Could it be magic?
I have to admit something--I'm not really sure how to write about this issue without spoiling it. Would it be repetitious for me to talk about the art since it's been the same artist the whole time I've been reading and reviewing this? It hasn't changed in overall style. That's actually what I like so much about the comic. I mean, I love the story, yes, obviously, the story is what gets the exclamation points. But it's through these illustrations that it truly comes to life, that's where the story moves from general to special. That seems like an obvious thing to say, but I don't know how often that's the case of every comic book. In the previous comics I've read and reviewed, the pictures are drawn to show a heightened sense of, well, everything. Supehero bodies that are gigantic and gorgeous in ways that no real person could be, and while i'm not pushing for realism, it seems like everything is extreme, there's only one tone, there's only one look. Nothing stands out, there's no contrast. Fight sequences that are full of action, and well drawn (or sometimes not) for what they are - action sequences - but not necessarily illustrations that translate the emotional content of the story into the characters faces or bodies. It's like the bodies are just gigantic machines, and the action is just a depiction of the machines being turned on. I mean, I've seen anger and force and happiness, but it's all so one note...how about shame? Despair? Hesitation? How about something that isn't screaming, something that has some texture? (Feel free to dispute this with me in the comment section. I am open to learning and being told I'm wrong. As long as you're nice, of course. :) )
In The Sword, however, it's done so well that I take it for granted. For instance, there's a mix of despair and surprise depicted in Dara's eyes in the top frame of page 15 that tells us fully what she's feeling and engages us into feeling it as well. That's great storytelling. Don't tell me she's freaking out, show me she's freaking out, and I'll freak out with her. I can get barked at on the subway. And then there's all of the flashbacks Dara has of her life when she was younger and with her family, always rolling in the lessons regarding character, strength and love that she was taught. But it's subtly done, it's there not just because of lucky coincedence, but because this is what she would be obsessing over, because of who she's facing. The words tell us what she's doing, but the art tells us what she's feeling.
I shouldn't go to overboard about the emotional content. The artwork that has kept me coming back for more, the artwork that has been of the "gasp out loud" variety, the stuff that kept me flipping the pages and hankering for more? The violence. Let me be upfront about that: this is shocking coming from me. I do not like gore. Not only am I NOT A FAN of blood and guts, I still close my eyes, plug my ears and go LA LA LA LA LA when there's any kind of violence on television or in movies. Ugh. I just can't. It scares me, it makes me feel squeamish. Part of that is because it stays with me. I mean, right now, I'm recalling the curbing scene in American History X. I closed my eyes for that...but still....the sound! The sound of teeth on the curb. YEESH! YIKES! I can't! BLaaaaaaaeeeeeeeeechhhhh.(My husband pointed out to me that particular scene isn't as gory as I remember it being, that they never actually show what Edward Norton does. It's just the sound, but I think my point still holds. I saw that movie almost a decade ago, and I can remember that noise like I heard it fifteen minutes ago.)
Imagine my surprise, then, that I'm all juiced up about the way Dara's sword slices off and through body parts. I mean, just look at -- well don't look if you don't want it spoiled - but just look at page 20. Look at that! Dara's force is so well drawn! And how the hell do you draw force? Like that. Like page 20. The way her shoulder is up, the way her other arm is drawn bearing her weight. And then The SWORD! Look at that thing going all the way through. You see it coming out the back. And the blood just spraying! And the best part yet - the look on Malia's face as the sword goes through her skull. I mean, LORD!
I shrieked out loud.
I laughed, too.
Could I have this much enjoyment if the art was half this good? I don't think so, my friends. I really don't.
So, lookee there. I DID find a way to talk about it without talking about the end. I know you think I talked about the end right there. But I didn't..... What happens to Malia is not the end. Go read it. I can't wait to hear what you thought about it.
-Nina Stone, 2010