Humanoids Inc, 2014, 212 pages
In a world threatened by the imminent death of its sun, young Yama lives a relatively happy and peaceful life as the daughter of the chief of the village. But everything changes the day a sword of glass falls from the sky, just as the prophecy had announced. Anyone who touches the sword is instantly turned to glass and dies. Orland, the local lord of war, comes to take possession of the unique weapon but fails to retrieve it. In the process, Yama’s father is killed and her mother taken away. Yama, however, escapes and survives with only one thought: when she grows up, she will return to get the sword of glass, and avenge her parents.
The Swords of Glass was originally published in four volumes. It tells the story of Yama, a little girl who's the daughter of the village chieftain. At the beginning of the story, four magical swords of glass come hurtling from the dying sun to land in various places around the world. One lands right outside Yama's village, sticking in the stone "Lizard God." The local warlord, a nasty fellow with lots of eyeshadow named Orland, comes looking for it.
Yama alone is able to touch the sword without being harmed. She runs off into the forest after Orland's men arrive, but everyone else who tries to grab the sword is turned into glass. Yama's father ends up getting stoned by terrified villagers (would-be rebels trying to foment an uprising and getting killed for their trouble is a recurring theme in this story), and Orland rides off with Yama's mother slung across his saddle. Yama disappears into the wilds, swearing vengeance. Fortunately, she meets an old hermit who turns out to be a swordmaster, and who also knows something about these glass swords.
Swords of Glass is a Eurocomic, which has both a narrative and artistic style quite different either from American comics or manga. The world created by Sylviane Corgiat and Laura Zuccheri is beautiful and fantastic and resembles a multicultural fantasy Meso-America with creatures created by Jim Henson. I loved the art, which was expressive both when depicting humans and their facial and body language, and the sweeping city panoramas.
The first arc is about Yama and her quest to become a swordswoman who can hunt down and kill Orland. Her mentor, Miklos, has his own secrets. As Yama grows up, she turns into a little hothead, and becomes increasingly frustrated at the fact that Miklos still sees her as a little girl.
In the second book, they travel to the great city of Karelane, seeking the other glass swords, because there's a prophecy about the four of them opening a gateway to another world to save the populace of this dying earth. Of course, they find that Orland has become the chief of Karelane's praetorian guards in Karelane, more powerful than ever. They also meet Orland's spoiled, scrappy son, Ilango.
As the series go on, we meet some of the other sword-wielders. Tigran was a blacksmith. One of the glass swords came right through the roof of his shop. His unfortunate wife grabbed it and was turned into a glass statue; Tigran doesn't want to save the world, he just wants to restore his wife.
As much as I appreciated the art, and scope of the story, the dialog is really clunky at times. Some of this could be chalked up to bad translation (the original series was in French), but some is just, well, bad. Characterization is inconsistent. Yama is sometimes impetuous and brave, sometimes just a whiny little brat, whose feelings about Miklos turn on a dime. Miklos's story involves a weird love triangle with an astrologer's wife that resulted in him and another general being exiled, with two glass swords. The world is dying, but parts still look lush and fertile. There are weeks of travel over arctic mountains, desert, and jungles that get covered in a few panels.
In the final volume, everything is resolved. Again, a little strangely, It's a very European science-fantasy ending. The ending also felt rather rushed. Four volumes of interpersonal relationships and feuds and factional alliances and warfare, and then the glass swords come together, and everything is fixed by [Spoiler (click to open)]aliens and time travel.
An interesting saga, and I really did like the art, but the characterization and the dialog were just too uneven for me to really love the story.
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