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The ugly truth is that I can’t afford Dark Horse Presents. Not without making cuts to my pull list that I just don’t want to make. Fortunately, publisher seems to understand this, and is making it easy for me with its zero-issue program, collecting stories from DHP into one-shots that may or may not lead into ongoing series. I’m able to keep up with some of my favorite creators and characters this way in a format I enjoy, while also discovering some new stuff like Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas’ steampunk/fantasy comic Amala’s Blade.
A couple of things attracted me to the one-shot right away: its sword-wielding heroine, and Dialynas’ art. The look of the comic combines the expressive designs of someone like Faith Erin Hicks with the European-influenced grittiness of maybe Simon Roy. There are also cyborg pirates and a monkey in a derby, but I never know how much I can trust those things. Besides the derby-wearing primate that ripped me off in St. Augustine that one time, it’s easy for writers to throw gimmicky concepts into a story just to elevate the Awesomeness Quotient. It’s a whole other thing to be able to integrate those concepts into the world in a believable way and make them work for the story. Horton’s script does that not just with the crazier story elements, but with the genre itself.
More often than not, steampunk is a setting, not a genre. Most “steampunk” stories I read are that way only because someone decided to throw in some goggles, gears and maybe an airship or two. In Amala’s Blade, Horton and Dialynas explore the very idea of steampunk, and in the process call into question its relevance. It’s tough to tell after one issue, but I think this doubting is intentional.
The mythic world of Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas’s Amala’s Blade is divided into two warring groups: Modifiers, who use technology to improve their bodies and eliminate defects, and Purifiers, who eschew such modification. Amala, a young girl, is chosen to become the new leader of their country and to bring the two tribes together, but when strangers arrive at her house to bring the news, she flees into the night and joins a band of assassins instead.
Amala’s Blade will run as a three-part series in Dark Horse Presents, starting with issue #9 (on sale in February). The series kicks off with a battle of wits and weapons between Amala and a pirate captain. I was intrigued by the premise, so I asked Horton and Dialynas to explain where they got the idea for Amala and where they are hoping to take it; Dialynas also shared some of the concept art.
Robot 6: Let’s start with the elevator pitch: What is Amala’s Blade about, and how is it different from all other adventure/steampunk comics?
Steve: Amala’s Blade is about a girl picked at age 8 as a spiritual leader, raised by the state to stop civil war between two halves of the same country. She runs away instead, is kidnapped, and ignites 20 years of war. Recruited into a sword orphan cult instead, she’s trained as an assassin, and now she’s the sole surviving member. Making her way as a killer for the unscrupulous Vizier, her past is catching up with her in a hurry. To be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of adventure/steampunk books out there, and there’s certainly nothing at all like Amala. I wanted to do it because it was different, fun, and had exactly the right artist in Michael Dialynas.
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The first thing I did when I got to C2E2 was head to Artist Alley to see who was there. It’s always fascinating to see big-name talent rubbing shoulders with creators who haven’t been discovered yet. Here’s a quick look at some of the tables that caught my eye today.
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While advance solicitations let us know about upcoming print comics, where are those advance notices of upcoming webcomics? Here’s one — an upcoming webcomic from writer Steve Horton called Spinning To Infinity.