Brian Wood’s daddy/daughter story is the epitome of subtlety. A moment carries with it the weight of forever, and forever will span over pages of carefully drawn panels, rich with meaning. A simple look conveys what other writers might need monologues to convey. Sword Daughter does not treat you, the audience, like you are stupid, because Sword Daughter is brevity at its finest. The book is Shakespeare minus the dialogue. The main character holds inside of her the spirit of Arya Stark with no words at all. Sword Daughter is a quick read that will call you back again and again.
Many have sung the praises of the creative team behind Sword Daughter, but let me do it again. Brian Wood is a genius. Mack Chater is a genius. Together, they hit a level of genius that is shocking to cynical comic book likers everywhere! As someone who reads/reviews comic books regularly, I cannot tell you how special it is to read something this confident. It’s refreshing, and that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The characters are thick with meaty depth, begging to be sliced from the analytical bone. Elsbeth, the young girl, is a breathing manifestation of “show don’t tell.” She is mute and communicates solely through action - action by way of blood. She is a machine for which revenge violence is produced. She’s had a rough life, and no viking is going get away with making it any rougher. These are the kinds of characters that get remembered in fiction. They are interesting and executed with gentle specifics and subtle gestures.
The father is dead inside and waiting for the outside to catch up. He has all but physically abandoned Elsbeth. His arc is glorious. His road to redemption clear and exciting. Functionally, he grows alongside his daughter, representing the complicated catch-22 of parenting. The more you try to shield your children from trauma, trauma will find a way. His choices are complicated. His name is...Dag.
The name isn’t great, but the character is.
My only complaint is that this volume only contains the first three issues. I am not sure why this choice was made, but there’s not really a valid arc here. My feeling is that this ends in the middle of what would be a normal-sized comic arc. So, as a package, I would wait to pick up Volume 1 and 2 together, as this will likely function as one complete set. As it is presented, Sword Daughter Volume 1: She Brightly Burns doesn’t quite justify itself, which is a shame because the book is REALLY good.
If you have not read this, buy it. If you have read the first three issues, wait for a bigger collection. Sword Daughter seems like the type of book that could wrap up as a masterpiece, and it’s well on its way there.
Creative Team: Brian Wood (writer), Mack Chater (artist)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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