A Review and Some Ramblings about Christy Marx’s Sisterhood of Steel and Amethyst
When I heard DC was bringing back Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, I was thrilled. I recently finished collecting every single issue and have read about half of the series so far, and love every page of it.
When I heard Christy Marx was going to be writing it, my heart nearly stopped in disbelief. While I (confession!) have never watched Jem and the Holograms (gotta ask my roommate if I can use her Netflix for that), I had read her miniseries Sisterhood of Steel, published by Epic (Marvel’s old creator-owned imprint) back in 1984. It had been a convention quarter bin discovery— the beautiful painted cover of the first issue and the compelling title practically required me to posses and absorb every issue.
So, in preparation for Marx’s return to comics, I decided to re-read all eight issues, as well as read for the first time the graphic novel I had been unaware of until I went to Marx’s website! Beneath the cut you’ll find a review of Sisterhood of Steel and some speculation on what we may expect on Marx’s Amethyst run. If you want to read the series yourself, Marx has all the issues available for purchase on her website, or you can just check eBay or the usual old comics websites.
One of the obvious comparisons to make to Sisterhood of Steel is the Amazons of Wonder Woman, in the sense that there is an all-women warrior island; however, it would do a great disservice to Marx’s imagination to chalk it up as a Wonder Woman wannabe. Her worldbuilding is strong— within the first issue alone, we are given a solid grounding in the politics and culture of Ildana (the Sisterhood’s seat of power) without drowning in exposition, and the remaining mysteries come with the subtext of assurance that they will be answered later (so you’ve got to keep reading!)
Following one young woman, Boronwë’s, initiation into Ildana’s military, for which she had been training since the age of four, Marx examines the themes of loyalty and freedom from all angles in compelling ways. She doesn’t shy away from presenting the Sisterhood a flawed society, with internal strife and with paradoxical, even hypocritical, values and traditions. All the while the threat of war with outsiders and barbarian hordes hang over their nation, and Boronwë is faced with some heart-wrenching decisions at the crossroads of friendship, obedience, and justice.
The characters all have strong, clear voices of their own. Some take their warrior duties very seriously, others as a game, while still others find themselves completely ill-suited to the ways of the Sisterhood. The cast is also fairly diverse, with women of color within the ranks of the Sisterhood, and (unsurprisingly) barely-remarked-upon queer women. There are a few moments scattered about where I felt that some unfortunate aspects of real world sexual hang-ups broke through and were kind of jarring (for example, at one point Boronwë casually called another Sister a “slut”). Overall, however, the book is very sex-positive.
The best and worst thing about Sisterhood of Steel is that there are so many layers that most of the world is only hinted at, which makes the short run of both the mini and the GN (which cuts off literally mid-story) a shame, because it is very clear how much thought went into creating this world and its inhabitants, and I get the feeling Marx could have run this series continuously since 1984 and still have plenty of material to go on!
All-in-all, I see nothing but positive things coming out of Marx’s run on Amethyst. She has already discussed making Amethyst more like Sisterhood than Jem, and Gemworld is perfectly suited to a deeper, more mature exploration of its political structures (with its multiple nations and the conflicts and alliances among them), as well as its more magical aspects (which Sisterhood also had, though to a lesser degree). And since Marx plans on making Amy/Amethyst 17-years-old, the same age as Boronwë, I have no doubt she will have the same strong grasp of a young woman at such a pivotal age.
And who knows, maybe Vertigo will pick up new stories of Sisterhood of Steel as well!
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