Sword of Ages, Gabriel Rodriguez’s (Locke and Key, Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland) five-issue miniseries that is a mixture of sword and planet with Arthurian legend, begins its second issue with Avalon, along with her traveling companions Lancer, Trystan, and Gawyn, traveling atop the Guardian of the Lake (a large dragon) to a small island with a sacred cave, wherein they encounter a chamber of monsters and a legendary sword stuck in a large green gem (Sword of Ages’ parallel to Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone). Meanwhile, the Black Star Templars are shown to be conquerors from the stars, staging a military campaign called “Operation Stormbringer” to bring their particular brand of law to the planet. The White Monks, briefly alluded to in issue one, are formally introduced. Their leader’s son, Lord Calen (who has feelings for Avalon), leads a scouting missing to spy on a meeting of the Black Sun Templars and the Red Clan. The two groups plot a siege against the White Monks, and while attempting to report this information back, Calen is captured.
Issue two is rife with not only large narrative advances, but smaller narrative nuances that give Sword of Ages additional personality. For example, in issue one, Avalon is shown in a few panels peering through a spyglass (and spots the slavers in this fashion). Up until this point, the spyglass is presented as something of utility to the reader and nothing more. In issue two, in an exchange between Lord Calen and his father Lord Huss, it is revealed that the spyglass is on loan to Avalon from Calen after both of them shared an evening looking at the stars. It’s a small detail and perhaps not even necessary during Calen’s dialogue to his father to show his adoration for Avalon, but it’s a flourish nonetheless that gives Avalon’s character a bit more dimension, since she’s now using the spyglass not just for its utility, but its sentiments, as well.
Avalon’s cohorts, though, continue down a more cartoonish and caricature path of development, echoing similar characters in other stories: Trystan the silent type; Lancer the overconfident and boisterous type; and Gawyn who is in it for the money and profit. Gawyn becomes particularly cartoonish, for in one instance he goes from idle to trying desperately to pull the sword from the gem (and failing). They, perhaps, are not the most developed characters, but their depictions can be echoed in other fantasy stories and provide familiar footholds for readers by being stock characters. Another example of familiar footholds for readers can be found in the dress codes between the Black Sun Templars and the White Monks. As in traditional western tropes, good cowboys wear white hats while bad guys wear black, which both the monks and the Templars adhere to, as well.
There is some clever transitioning between the panels throughout this issue of Sword of Ages. For instance, page five ends with an oblivious Gawyn standing in the middle of a green lake full of monsters. There’s some comedic timing that is immediately shattered at the top of page six, where the panel is almost re-created, except this time the narrative has moved to a captured slave in agony as his memories are forced out of him via tubes from his mouth/ear/nose and into Mother Lac’Gyne of the Black Sun Templars. The two panels side by side, sharing a similar composition (a character surrounded by a sea of monsters and visions), give an example of the unique transitional quality to the different narrative threads going on in Sword of Ages while also connecting the action.
The colors from Lovern Kindzierski combined with the art of Rodriguez are still on point as in issue one. Each monster in the cave sequence is colored differently, giving variety to the masses instead of being indistinguishable. The alien world, with purple grasses and blueish foliage, still looks alien without being overkilled with exotica. Moments of magic (such as various monsters’ eyes, the green gem the sword resides in, etc.) particularly pop off the page as if they were really glowing. The art and color work is all vivid and attractive. Thus far, Sword of Ages remains an impressive comic in both story with Avalon and its art while retaining its inherent twist on the sword and planet and Arthruian formulas.
Nicholas Diak is a pop culture scholar of industrial and synthwave music, Italian genre films, and Lovecraft studies. He contributes essays to various anthologies, journals, and pop culture websites. He is the editor of the anthology, The New Peplum: Essays on Sword and Sandal Films and Television Programs Since the 1990s. He can be found at nickdiak.com.