Review: 3.5/5 – A Nice, if Disjointed, Piece of Comics History
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow
While the rest of the world was busy getting caught up in Secret Wars and Convergences, there was another epic crossover I had my eyes on. Dynamite has made a name for itself over the past few years as a home to a number of those elusive “strong female characters” so many industry people seem to want to tap into, but don’t always seem to get right. Let’s be honest, when you’re dealing with characters like Dejah Thoris, Red Sonja, Jana the Jungle Girl, and Vampirella – all characters who seem to have an ongoing bet as to who can show up in less clothing – you could be forgiven for dismissing this series as a giant slice of cheesecake. Particularly when you have artists like J. Scott Campbell (on cover detail for the first issue), Francesco Manna, Dave Acosta, and Mirka Andolfo covering the art chores. Yes, if that were all there was to this series, you’d be well within your rights to just roll your eyes and give this series a pass.
That’d be a big mistake, of course, because the series also offers one of the strongest all-female writing squads ever assembled: Gail Simone at the helm, overseeing the main storyline, Nancy Collins teaming up Vampirella with Jennifer Blood, Marguerite Bennett on a Red Sonja/Jungle Girl three-parter, and G. Willow Wilson and Erica Schultz on a Masquerade/Kato one-shot. And that’s just getting the list started. While it is neat to have an all-female group writing this series, it isn’t because they’re great female writers, but because they’re great writers – period – that these characters, whether legends from classic science fiction or relatively recent creations from comics’ “Bad Girls” movement, are given the opportunity to show who they are now as opposed to how they may have been viewed in the past.
The individual books are collected based on when they were released, and while that makes sense on one level, on another it makes for a fairly confusing read. Individually each story, from the one-shots to the multi-parters to the overarching main book, offer a lot of fun, exciting adventure with great artwork riding shotgun. Putting all those pieces together in a more coherent order might have been worth the effort. When the book winds towards its ultimate conclusion it’s also tasked with concluding some of those side-stories, which yanked out of the overall tale.
So, is the story itself any good? That ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. In the forward Simone talks about this history of this series – the opportunity to bring all these characters together in the same book for the first time – and she’s right. If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if Miss Fury teamed up with Lady Rawhide, or if the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty wound up on Mars, this is your book. The story itself is almost irrelevant in the face of its cast of characters. It’s a pretty standard bad guy wants to take over the world and a ragtag band of people are gathered together to try and stop him. There’s a few twists and turns along the way, but this is a story you’ve seen before…albeit not one with Pantha and Lady Greystoke in it, but similar nonetheless.
When this series was announced I knew I wanted in. I knew I’d be getting great artwork and, as I mentioned earlier, some of the industry’s best writers pulling the story together. I also knew it was a Dynamite book, so I knew there’s be tons of variant covers (thankfully put together in a nice gallery at the end of the book) and there’d eventually be a massive trade of it, so I felt like waiting to see how everything fell together before commenting. While the story of Swords of Sorrow isn’t necessarily anything I haven’t seen before, it’s a nice little chronicle of characters both old and new, gathered together to tell that story. It tends to skip around a lot due to the stories being packed in order of release, but if you know that going in, it shouldn’t distract too much from your overall enjoyment of the story.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture