Review: Amethyst trade paperback (DC Comics)


Amy Reeder’s Wonder Comics Amethyst is a peppy, bubble-gum take on the DC property that hops along from beginning to end. Reeder imbues the title character with no small amount of bullish, youthful get-up-and-go, creating a hero who barrels good-naturedly into every situation and never takes no for an answer, especially not from some stuck-up grownup. The result is charming, an entertaining book that never pauses long enough for its audience to get bored, even when taking a breath might be a boon.

Taken on its own, Reeder’s Amethyst is a winner. It’s only when we step back to look at where Amethyst was meant to fit in the grand DC Universe tapestry versus where it does that we start to run into trouble, as is often the case. I also left the book feeling that Reeder needed another issue — that the most interesting and emotional beats of the Amethyst book were the ones Reeder was just about to arrive at but didn’t have time or space, and that’s a shame. I’d be happy to read another Amethyst miniseries from Reeder, if it was offered; at the same time the shortcomings in this book seem to echo the problems with Brian Michael Bendis' Wonder Comics imprint overall and I can also see the wisdom in just giving it all a rest.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the best way possible, Reeder doesn’t spend too long on anything in this book. Reeder only features Amy “Amethyst” Winston’s Earth parents for three pages before they’re gone from the book for good, never even named (though their presents [and presents] loom large in the conclusion of the book, subtly). One smidgen of a panel tells us everything we need to know about how the Winstons feel sharing their daughter with an alternate dimension, a nice bit of showing instead of telling. One imagines another creator using double this amount of space for a drawn-out conversation with the family Winston, but Reeder bops along, keeping the story moving.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

The pace of the story is on par with the boisterousness of Reeder’s Amy. No sooner does Amy return to Gemworld after an absence then she finds the populace turned against her; she takes each slight by the other Gemworld royals with increasing frustration, and ultimately she’s not above pleading her case on a street corner at the top of her lungs. Somewhere between The Wizard of Oz and Heart of Darkness, Reeder’s Amy and her band of misfits lead the reader on a fast-paced tour of Gemworld, with Amy throwing herself from challenge to challenge with optimistic abandon.

Reeder’s contribution to the Amethyst mythos this time around is the idea that Amy’s royal Gemworld parents, seemingly killed just after her birth, actually faked their own deaths in a failed power grab. It’s a tale revealed by unreliable narrators, such that at first it seems a lie — that Amy’s birth parents, whom she’s always mourned and tries throughout this book to rescue, might actually be villains. As such, when Amy does rescue them and they do turn out to be terrible people, it’s the book’s most interesting moment — the moment, by and large, where Reeder does something different than the tour of the mystic lands of Gemworld which, while well done, we’ve seen a couple times before.

And that’s Amethyst’s first big shortcoming, that it only largely differentiates itself from other modern Amethyst revivals (like Christy Marx’s New 52 Sword of Sorcery) in its last few pages, not enough time to get into it at all. Sure, I understand Reeder setting up a sequel, between all the amethysts disappearing and Amy becoming ruler of Gemworld’s “Banned” sect, but it hardly feels like this life-changing moment for Amy gets much room to breathe. (Nor, I’d add, do Amy’s companions get much fleshing out.)

Second, there’s the fact that Amethyst, under the Wonder Comics banner, is ostensibly supposed to be a spin-off from Amy’s recent appearances in Bendis' Young Justice. But confusion sets in right away, in that in Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld, Amy calls a royal of Gemworld “Mom.” If, like me, your other recent exposure to Amethyst was Sword of Sorcery, where Amy’s birth mother Queen Graciel is alive and present in her life, those two books would seem to be in line. Having Amy’s birth parents be “deceased” follows the 1980s comics by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, but one could certainly be forgiven for thinking this Amethyst series would match the continuity of Amy’s contemporaneous appearances in the exact same imprint.



As I noted in my review of Young Justice Vol. 3: Warriors and Warlords, Bendis' now-cancelled Young Justice itself finished rather abruptly, never delivering on any number of storylines it had promised to elucidate. Wonder Comics has ended only about 20 issues in; I hate to call it a failed experiment (like Young Animal and Sandman Universe), but it seems to be, and this one hurts. That Young Justice and Amethyst don’t match just feels like another example of where Wonder Comics fell down; to that end, sure I’d read more of Reeder’s Amethyst, but part of me is just sad Wonder Comics didn’t work.

A writer-artist book is always fun, and again, taken on its own, Amy Reeder’s Amethyst has a lot of heart, plus narwhals and giant caterpillars named Stan and so on. Should Reeder want to do another one in the Infinite Frontiers era of DC Comics, I’d be all for it, just so long as we’re clear whether this is Elseworlds or isn’t.

[Includes original covers and a variant]

Comments ( 3 )

  1. I really wanted to like this and Amy Reeder draws it amazingly well but I just found it underwhelming in the story department. I do wish DC would reissue all the 80's Amethyst stuff in a big omnibus but maybe there just isn't a market for it?

  2. Who's gotten it right, in order:
    Brianne Drouhard, then Young Justice, then Reeder, then Sword of Sorcery. Honestly, Drouhard's sketches flesh out Gemworld & the characters far better than any of the other stories could. Sword of Sorcery felt like it had zilch to do with original Amethyst. Maybe the upcoming series will finally feel right but I won't hold my breath.


To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.