Saturday, May 21, 2016

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #1 (1983)


Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #1 (May, 1983)

"The Birthright"
Writers - Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn
Artist - Ernie Colon
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Tom Ziuko
Editor - Karen Berger
Special Thanks - Dave Manak
Cover Price: $0.60

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld is the type of book that I started this blog to explore.  It's one of those "outside my wheelhouse" books that I always sorta kinda wanted to check out, but never really had the impetus to do so.  Over the years, I'd come to own a great deal of both the 12-issue maxi-series and the short-lived attempt at an ongoing, yet never actually cracked one open.

Let's rectify that today.

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It's Amy Winston's thirteenth birthday, and an odd reptilian critter has decided to leave her a gift to commemorate the occasion... and swell thingie that he(?) is, he even wrapped it and topped it with a bow... okay, he uses the wrap and bow from her real gift, and replaces it with his.  It's the thought that counts, right?


Shortly, when Amy and her family return home from her birthday dinner, it's time to open her presents.  Inside the curious critter-left box, Amy discovers a large beautiful Amethyst necklace and excitedly puts it on while her parents both furrow their brows.


We follow Amy to her bedroom where she considers the thoughtfulness (and surprise) of her "parent's" gift.  Now in her (uncomfortably) skimpy nightie, she opens up her closet to hang up her clothes... only to find that a large snake-wielding ogre is inside!  He pulls her into a portal, where she finds herself aging into a young adult upon arrival into an odd next world over.


She finds herself in a palace stood before an evil looking mustachioed gent.  We learn that the ogre's name is "Belaz" which, to me is only a few letters away from Belasco (from X-Men's limbo stories, though he looks more like S'ym).  They threaten to kill her, however, hint that they have more nefarious designs on her.  One particularly gross Gemworld dweller approaches her while undoing his clothes.  Luckily, late-teen Amy is still wearing her precious stone... which blasts the would-be molester with purple energy.

This was a code-approved book...
In the confusion, a tall gray man enters the scene.  He takes Belaz out, and refers to Amy as "Princess" when he asks her to accompany him.  Considering her options, Amy decides to trust the devil she doesn't know rather than remain with those she does.


The tall man is called Granch, and he delivers Amy to an old witch called Citrina.  With Sardonyx (the bad guy) giving chase, Granch insists he stay behind to cover the ladies' escape.  Citrina refers to Amy as Amethyst, and the two whisk away... as we watch Granch snapping a critter's jaw.


Citrina brings Amethyst... who wears and amethyst... to Castle Amethyst... ay yai yai.  Inside she promises to answer any and all questions she may have.  She meets her loyal subjects and goes faint, overwhelmed by these incredibly strange events.  While she is out, she is bathed and put to bed.


The following morning she appears to be even more mature.  She stands head and shoulders taller than her followers and her hair is completely grown out.  Citrina reveals Amethyst's secret origin.  Her parents once ruled the Amethyst House of Gemworld.  Shortly after her birth (on Gemworld) war broke out between the Amethysts and the House of Opal, ruled by The Dark Lord... can't be a good guy with a name like that!


During a blitz on the Amethyst House... which ultimately saw it fall.  The baby was sent to Earth to be adopted by the Winstons.  On Gemworld, word was sent out that the child was killed to prevent her being sought out.  It was always the plan to bring her back when she was of age, however, it would appear that The Dark Lord had already sussed this all out.


Amethyst does not react well to this news, and demands to be sent home.  A dejected Citrina agrees... Before she can make good, Castle Amethyst is attacked.  Amethyst (the girl) finds herself unwittingly drafted into battle.


Sardonyx is the point man on the raid, and easily takes down a weakened Citrina's protective shield.  Amethyst screams out in fear... so loud, her Earth parents can hear it.  She hesitates before striking back at Sardonyx... Citrina does her best Yoda impression, by guiding Amy's hand while advising her "there is no think... only do" (or thereabouts).


Amethyst blasts the interlopers with a wave of purple energy... and actually sends them packing.  In the shadow of battle, Citrina sends Amy back home, inviting her to return only when she is ready.


The child form of Amy cries out in her bed as her parents scale the house steps.  Her mother makes mention of her being "back" much to her father's confusion... which leads me to believe she may be in on it.  Amy convinces herself the entire event was nothing more than a nightmare.


After being suitably calmed down, Amy lays in bed with her Amethyst stone wondering if it really was all just a dream.  She finds herself able to reopen the portal with the pendant, and steps back into Gemworld.  Unfortunately for her, she's not alone... a knife brandishing nudnik watches on from the shadows...


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Overall, not bad.  Definitely not the type of book I would normally seek out, but I'm glad I made time for it today.  This series came out in 1983, nearly a year after the Uncanny X-Men story in which Illyana Rasputin becomes Magik during a stay in limbo.  I'm not sure that it's fair to compare Amethyst to that, however, I can't shake feeling that there may have been some inspiration for this there.  Even down to the lead characters shift in age, it just feels very similar.

I'll concede I may just be noticing this because I'd recently reread a bit of old X-Men... but to me, it's always a bit interesting to me to notice commonalities between the big two's offerings.

I really enjoyed the more Amy-centric bits of the story, rather than the wider Gemworld info dump.  Gemworld feels just like any samey Fantasy realm, nothing all that special... warring factions, swords and sorcery.  Nothing that really stands out as novel, at least at this point.  Perhaps apropos of nothing, I feel this would have been a bit easier of a read if not everything in it was referred to as "Amethyst" something or another.  Between the Castle, the stone, the girl, and her parents... dat's a lotta rocks.

It seems as though Amy's adoptive Earth-mother may have a deeper understanding of what is really going on.  I think that's a neat touch.  The fact that Amy's dad is relatively clueless brings about a potentially intriguing dynamic that I hope the creators explore.

The art is very nice.  My thoughts on the samey-ness of Gemworld aside, it is rendered beautifully.  I really enjoyed the aesthetic look of this issue.  Amy in her Earth form actually resembles a young girl... not just a smaller version of a full-grown woman.  I will admit that I could've really done without the see-thru effects on her nightie however... that just looked wrong.

All in all, a fun time.  Worth checking out, I would say.  Luckily, this run has been collected... if you don't mind reading the series in black and white, the ultra-affordable and ultra-thick (648 pages!) SHOWCASE Presents: Amethyst is available.  As of this writing it can be procured at instocktrades.com for just about ten bucks.  If you're in the mood for swords and sorcery with a twist, definitely give Amethyst a shot.

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2 comments:

  1. FYI, no X-Men influence on the Amethyst story, which was in development for at least a couple of years before the maxi-series finally appeared. The adult hero with kid "secret identity" aspect was probably most influenced by The Fly, from when Gary and I were kids.

    When I see similar ideas showing up in different places at the same time, I usually chalk it up to the zeitgeist we're all taking part in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mr. Mishkin! Thank you so much for stopping by... thanks even more for taking the time to drop me a message and help me clear up my confusion.

      I've since read a bit further into the maxi-series, and am really enjoying it (and I'm not just saying that!). I'm finding I have a real affinity/attachment to a few pre-Crisis DC Comics/concepts... and several of them seem to have the names Mishkin and Cohn attached to them! Thank you so much!

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