Amethyst has been on my “series to complete” list for quite a while now, ever since I bought the Showcase edition and discovered that it did not hold the entire run of the series. I thought that five issues and a special would be easy to find, especially since that comic is not that in demand as far as the back issue market is concerned. But it’s been pretty hard to find and I’ve managed to scrounge up what I could from repeated dives into back issue bins over the years.
So this was one of the series that I had put off reading until I finished collecting it; however, seeing that I’m not going anywhere to buy comics anytime soon and I really don’t feel like scrounging eBay at the moment, I went ahead and read them.
The story of Amethyst is basically this: Amy Winston, a teenage girl living in suburban New York, discovers one day that she is actually Amethyst, the princess of a kingdom known as Gemworld (hence the title). There’s a whole backstory about her being placed there as a way to protect her, and over the course of a twelve-issue maxi-series and then an ongoing, she battles a villain named Dark Opal to save Gemworld. By the time that I got to these particular issues, Dark Opal had been defeated and the creative team was turning over, getting ready to take it in a different direction.
So in a way, the Showcase isn’t “incomplete” in that it does contain the entire Dark Opal storyline, but there are a few loose threads that carry over into what’s in the book, which is plotted by Keith Giffen and written by Mindy Newell with art by Ernie Colon (the holdover from the original creative team). Issue #12 is a one-and-done story where Amy tells two kids she is babysitting about a romance between Amethyst and a prince named Topaz. Issue #13 is a Crisis crossover wherein Dr. Fate takes Amethyst to Gemworld after she’s blinded fighting the Anti-Monitor’s shadow demons and it’s revealed that she is a human Lord of Order.
This reveal sets up the final conflict of the series wherein she stands against the Lords of Chaos, who are using the friction between the various Gemworld kingdoms to sow discord and take over via a villain pair named Flaw and Child. That takes us all the way to the finale special, which ends with Amethyst killing Flaw and sacrificing herself by merging with Child. From there, we have an epilogue wherein she has clearly become some sort of legend among the citizens of Gemworld.
That epilogue is important because it is penciled by Estaban Maroto, who would do the art on the four-issue miniseries that was published in 1987. This was a Baxter-format book that was meant to be a soft reboot of the character, or at least give her a little more connection to the DCU during the post-Crisis years. But unlike other post-Crisis reboots, the series sticks to the continuity of its predecessor (probably because Amethyst mostly existed outside of the DCU with the exception of that one Crisis crossover issue) and picks up twenty years after the 1986 special. This series also seems to be tying the book to the Legion of Super-Heroes, as one of the princes of Gemworld becomes the sorcerer Mordu.
A couple of years ago, I met Amethyst co-creator Gary Cohen at a convention in Richmond and he talked about his role in the creation of the character and writing of the original miniseries. He wasn’t very happy with the direction that DC had the character take in the ongoing, especially in these later issues. I will say that it does seem to come off as a way to boost sales or inject some sort of life into the title. Just prior to these issues, the main villain had been defeated, and the connection to both the Lords of Order and Chaos as well as the Legion of Super-Heroes are retcons upon which your mileage may vary regarding their necessity or success.
The writers try their best to stay within the book’s own mythology while tying it into DC’s continuity. The Lord of Order thing is a bit clunky–we’re supposed to believe that a Lord of Order pulled a Zeus and possessed her father, then consummated the relationship–and the Child and Flaw seem creepy and dangerous but the limited number of issues makes them lack the epic scope that they had when Black Opal was the villain. The miniseries’ use of Mordu? I’m on the fence about it because it seems a bit forced, but I also don’t have the rest of it.
But I found these to be a bit of fresh air. They’re light-hearted in places but aren’t afraid to get dark, which is a balance that many books back then didn’t strike and many still don’t. The pacing is steady but not too quick, so you feel like you were getting your 75 cents worth. And the artwork on both the ongoing and miniseries are gorgeous. Yes, some of Ernie Colon’s art can be a little wonky, especially if he doesn’t have the right inker, but he puts in some great detail. Estaban Maroto’s work on the miniseries is gorgeous even if the limitations on coloring at the time hurt it a bit–honestly, it’s one of the few times where I think a modern coloring update could help a series (for reference, see the Image fantasy book Die).
It’s easy for me to say that I want to collect the remaining issues because I only have three that I need before I have the entire series (note: I believe much of it is available on Comixology, but I’m looking for the actual books). But I will say that these are worth tracking down. I have no idea if DC plans to reprint any of the older Amethyst books again–I guess we’ll see how her new series, which is part of the Wonder Comics imprint, does–but if they are reprinted in a color trade, I think I’ll pick those up as well.
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