In this latest offering from Dark Horse, an assassin named Amala inhabits a steampunk landscape divided between the Modifiers and Purifiers, two camps separated by their ideological relationship to scientific advancement. The Modifiers willingly enhance their own bodies through new technology; the Purifiers don’t. Amala owes allegiance to neither side. She will kill anyone for a price, and her profession has made her a wanted woman. In spite of Amala’s proficiency at murder, the attention she’s drawn from the authorities hasn’t endeared her to the vizier, her most frequent employer. In what can only be called a win-win for the vizier, he sends Amala off on a suicide mission.
And there are ghosts. Did I mention the ghosts? Amala appears to be haunted by the specters of her previous victims.
In the hands of lesser talents, Amala’s Blade could easily have become a jumbled mess of too many ideas in too few pages. Instead, writer Steve Horton and illustrator Michael Dialynas find the perfect balance between character development and world-building, all of which is conveyed through dialogue and images. Horton trusts the reader enough never to resort to narrative captions while explaining the specific complexities of Amala’s world, and the comic is better for it.
Horton’s characterization, at least of Amala, is likewise complex. We’re never allowed to forget that Amala is a killer — the book’s not called Amala’s Pretty Blue Eyes, after all — but we do see glimpses of genuine tenderness in the “short minutes” before she embarks upon her suicide mission.
And on the subject of Amala’s eyes, Dialynas has drawn a grungy world for his and Horton’s assassin to inhabit. Amala is dirty and fitted in androgynous clothes. You might mistake Amala for a boy if not for her slight frame and her big expressive blue eyes, eyes that most often convey a smug certainty that she is indeed good at what she does, a “legend” in the words of another character.
A prequel story was serialized last year in Dark Horse Presents and then reprinted a few months ago as Amala’s Blade #0, but that story is not required reading before enjoying this #1 issue. And enjoy it you surely will.