SWORD OF AGES: Fat Talk

Sword of Ages is a fantasy comic series written and illustrated by Gabriel Rodríguez and published by IDW.  As of this writing, two issues have been released on a bi-monthly schedule.  Lovern Kindzierski colors the series, and Robbie Robbins letters it.  Rodríguez previously co-created the successful IDW series Locke & Key with writer Joe Hill — this is touted at the top of the comics’ covers.

Describing the plot of Sword of Ages is simple, but making sense of it is pretty difficult.  A young woman warrior named Avalon is raised by wild mountain cats who speak with and are understood by humans.  The setting of Sword of Ages is some kind of planet where tigers and people speak to one another but humans and other humans require translators due to local dialects.  I’m not sure if that’s an intentional note.  Anyway, Avalon is led off on a quest by an old man with a motorcycle and a laser gun.  A talking bird informs us that this man does drugs.  She meets three other adventurers (a cynic, an egotist, and a monk) and they go down into a cave where Avalon retrieves a magic sword.  It’s entirely possible that this is the “Sword of Ages” the title references — across 40 or so pages in two issues, it’s certainly never alluded to, let alone explained.  I don’t even know if the title is referencing a specific sword.

While all of the above occurs, there are also slavers, some sort of humanoid race who make up for in religion what they lack in noses, and a group of people who appear to be some kind of fascist church-of-evil element.  The unifying element of Sword of Ages is that no matter what set of characters we’re focusing on, they’re all talking a lot.  They explain details about themselves that give context to individual panels and scenes but not to the macro story that these scenes are meant to be a part of.  Sword of Ages generally reads like a scene in a movie where two actors ADR in an explanation of a plot point, but you can see in the long shot that no one’s lips are moving.  Perhaps this will all become clear in time, as more details are revealed, but with a bi-monthly release schedule, this is an astronomical demand on the reader’s patience.  Then again, in five years, people will be buying the collected editions anyway — hopefully the plot will have gotten rolling by then.

There are times where Rodríguez’s art evokes Moebius, other times where it evokes P. Craig Russell, and other times still where it evokes latter-day Steve McNiven.  It’s clear that Rodríguez has a lot of Big Ideas that he would like to fit into Sword of Ages, but doing so sacrifices his visual style.  When every panel has to fit in two or three word balloons and caption boxes with a paragraph in each, artwork that would otherwise look considered and composed just looks cramped.  Everyone in Sword of Ages should just shut up and enjoy being part of the picture they’re in.  It’d be more satisfying for all concerned, both fictional and not.

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