One of the successes of Star Wars longevity, in my mind, has to be the determination of the young George Lucas to stoically underpin the whole affair with the 12 stages of the archetypal Hero’s Quest that has seeped into many a Hollywood movie ever since. It speaks to all of us, young and old, in its familiar elements. The young hero saving the princess from the Black Knight by storming the castle and making away with both her and a new found knowledge. In Luke’s case, the knowledge of The Force, of course. This is a story as old as time, but ripe for reimagining, juts as Lucas has done, and just how Gabriel Rodríguez is doing now.
In Sword of Ages, by the insanely talented Gabriel Rodríguez–with it’s subtle (and not so subtle) links to the Arthurian Legend and its setting very firmly sci-fi–we have a comic that is proud to admit that this narrative structure underpins the whole saga that Rodríguez is both writing and drawing. And the comic, therefore, will also feel familiar in its telling. It’s not something Rodríguez has shied away from, and discusses it in some detail in the first issue’s interview with the creator. It is a comic that offers up a new interpretation of the archetypes of Vladimir Propp’s, just as Star Wars did, and as such delivers us a ‘hero’ that is female; Avalon, questing for the eponymous Sword of Ages. And not a romance in sight! Phew.
In this second issue, we are also introduced to Lord Morgan, clearly the series’ main antagonist and in charge of the fascist-styled military that have invaded this far flung, rustic planet. We also learn more about Avalon’s past. And, like all tyrants and colonialists, Morgan and his ilk think they are superior to the planet’s inhabitants, honestly believing they have “a moral imperative to civilize these barbarians as fast as possible”.
Meanwhile, around Avalon have gathered allies and new friends, with Gawyn the stand out, a roguish rapscallion who seems to take on all obstacles in his way. Well, when he notices them, anyway.
This is a well-paced second issue, with Avalon and her gang battling, chopping and slicing through monster after monster in their quest for the aforementioned sword, juxtaposed with the more tranquil, yet threatening, scenes revolving around Morgan and his machinations. The job of government, especially a dictatorial one, is often as much about bureaucracy as it is battling rebels. Although, Morgan always finds the time for a bit of torture along the way, too. But it’s all done in a seemingly civilised way. Seemingly. These characters’ uniforms, however, are a constant reminder of their vile beliefs, as well as the reports on the planet they have prepared for their lord.
This all works because of the attention to detail that Rodríguez’s has clearly put into the realisation of this alien world. It has clearly been carefully mapped out, with artefacts and architectural details gelling together to create a believable, realised world ripe for exploration by both Avalon and the reader. And, in Rodríguez’s style, we have the bastard son of Moebius and Charles Vess. The vast, sweeping desert vistas remind me of much of the work that Moebius did in his sci-fi projects; vast, sweeping horizons over which lie untold opportunities and adventures yet to be told, while his mastery of movement brings alive the swishing and swooping of Lancer and Trystan, and others, as they claw their way through one challenge after another. The variant cover captures this frantic energy superbly, acting as a great advertisement for both the art and the artistic skills on show here. This is a comic of energy and calmness, with both offering threats of a very different nature. The cliffhanger would suggest, also, that Avalon’s quest may not be over, but rather just beginning.
Sword of Ages is a comic for people who love comics. It’s beautiful to look at, comfortingly familiar in its plot structure, but refreshing in its characters; aesthetically and personally, and in how they interact with one another. They might not be the actual Knights of the fabled Round Table, but they’re shaping up to be a great embryonic force for good on this planet. Magical swords, and high-tech villains with earthy heroes facing insurmountable odds? Count me in to this cracking series. King Arthur meets Star Wars, with a very satisfying hybrid of a comic book series as the results. I can’t wait to see what the next issue reveals.
Sword of Ages #2 is out now from IDW.