When DC announced a new Amethyst series – or rather, a Sword of Sorcery series that would feature Amethyst in its first arc, at least – I blinked a bit and wondered what I'd missed. I'd never heard of Amethyst, but apparently she was the Princess of Gemworld who showed up in comics in 1983 – predating She-Ra: Princess of Power by a couple of years, if you made the same association as I did when you first heard about her. The fact that DC got Christy Marx, a veteran writer for Jem and a lot of other 1980s cartoons, to pen this relaunch further cemented that association. However, it's worth noting that Marx's Sword of Sorcery Featuring Amethyst #0 has started much stronger than James Robinson's recent He-Man and The Masters of the Universe reboot.
It's the story of Amy Winston, a sullen high school student with kickass dark-but-multi-colored hair who lives her life as an outcast because of having to move a lot, thanks to her mother Graciel's mysterious ways. They live in a trailer, they've made little in the way of connections to people, and every night, Amy has to practice combat and swordfighting with her mother, who insists on preparing her for something. She's about to turn 17, and on that day, she'll find out the truth of where she's from and what happened to her father. She just never expected her real home to be a brightly-colored medieval world of… well, swords and sorcery. And that her true form is a blonde.
After proving her badass punch-fu skills by beating up on some jock assholes trying to rape a friendly but clueless girl behind the bleachers, her mother congratulates her for doing the right thing, and then leads her on the perilous journey back to the homeworld of Nilaa, which involves climbing a mountain to open a portal using a special crystal that has to remain hidden from interlopers. Once they cross over, they're set upon by the forces of Lady Mordiel, who wants Graciel and Amy dead so she can harness the full power of the House Amethyst bloodline. Yes, Mordiel is Amy's evil aunt.
Amethyst is actually a pretty fun set up so far. The rendering from artist Aaron Lopresti and fantastical colors from Hi-Fi make Nilaa a lovely place, the coolest kind of girly with everything made of shiny purple in House Amethyst. My initial reaction was that Marx leaned a little heavy on the old "popular girl/alterna-girl" divide in a way that I'm not sure is still relevant, considering how awesome dark-haired punkish chicks are, but then again, I'm way too far removed from high school to really know what it's like there anymore. Have those old social dynamics changed since so many nerdy things are cool now, or are they always the same because they are clueless adolescents trying haplessly to figure out how to relate to each other and protect their own reputations? That's a question that bears further research. Overall, Marx gives us an interesting way into what could be brushed aside as a Barbie-world by making our POV character a very non-"girly" girl, which should do well to broaden the appeal of Amethyst. And the other thing that will accomplish that is the cameo at the end, tying this world very firmly in with the rest of DC's New 52.
The book also features a backup story about Beowulf from Tony Bedard and Jesus Saiz. However, this seems to be set in some weird full-circle post-apocalyptic future mixing a medieval sensibility of armored soldiers on steeds with the relics of a more recent time, such as old army helmets on the young ones. It's a place called Geatland, and there seems to be an abandoned military base wherein a group is riding to find Beowulf, a burly soldier who emerges from a stasis pod to kill them for encroaching on said base. He's a white-haired man with what is possibly a cybernetic eye, and watching him kill everybody with a sword makes one think this could be some future version of Deathstroke. Yet, he answers to Beowulf, and a quick-thinking young man escapes his wrath and convinces him to leave his duty of guarding the base to go fight a beast called the Grendel. A challenge he takes once he learns that the king that wants his help was also a great general, suggesting a military respect as well. Curiously, he leaves the door of his base wide open to go after Grendel, so he might not care all that much about "orders." It's a strange enough little chapter that it makes one more compelling reason to check out Sword of Sorcery #0.