By Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert, Rags Morales, Emilio Lopez
The fourth arc in the “Amory Wars” saga finally returns after an almost six-year hiatus. Created by Claudio Sanchez, frontman of the rock band Coheed and Cambria, the Amory Wars comic is the adaptation of the storyline that the band’s concept albums follow. This issue is not written by Sanchez, but by Chondra Echert, Claudio’s wife and frequent collaborator on recent comic projects (Kill Audio and Key of Z). The book continues the journey of Claudio Kilgannon, a man with extraordinary abilities and believed to be the fulfillment of a Christ-like prophecy. It takes place after the events of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, though how long after is unclear. Claudio trains to have a better grasp of his powers with his guardian, Ambellina. Meanwhile, the saga’s primary adversary, the galactic dictator of Heaven’s Fence, Wilhelm Ryan, starts to rebuild his power, influence, and his fortress/giant mech, the House Atlantic…
A different element is also introduced to the narrative. A subplot of a writer, Ryder, who seems to be in a grounded reality like ours, but seems to lose himself within the “delusion” of the Amory Wars world causing serious damage to his personal relationships, his mental health, and his writing. His conflicts are having a direct effect on the characters in Heaven’s Fence. There is a specific riddle that races in Heaven’s Fence believe in religiously and mentions of a god-like being that have been noted in the past series and apparently Ryder is that being, in some way, according to Sanchez. This adds a much-needed layer or dimension, if you will, to the story. Amory Wars has been a solid science-fiction tale, but it was always missing something that really defined it. Sanchez and Echert seemed to have finally implemented that missing component of the Keywork. (Note: There is a graphic novel of the same name as this series that has similar structure and plot that was released in 2005. This is basically a retelling of that story within the current continuity).
This is issue is not easily accessible; one can read it cold, but it’s not recommended. After reading this issue, I had to go back and re-read several issues from the three previous series and I was familiar with the material to begin with. Having such a long gap between In Keeping Secrets and Good Apollo, definitely didn’t help. Now, that’s not to say that writing is bad, quite the contrary actually. Chondra Echert has a knack for writing natural dialogue. It grounds the characters, in both realities, and makes them three-dimensional. She and Claudio Sanchez are taking time for the characters to really reflect on their actions and question their paths. It’s refreshing to not have protagonists just jump from one battle or conflict to the next impulsively ( Netflix’s Iron Fist is extremely guilty of this); it’s how writers can really deepen and grow a character. Peter David did a fantastic job on In Keeping Secrets, but Echert is, without a doubt, making these characters and Amory Wars her own – and that’s a good thing.
What a surprise it was to find out that Rags Morales is the artist on the book. Well known for his stellar work at DC Comics (Identity Crisis and Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics), Morales has such a talent for depicting emotion and body language; really just rendering characters in general. It’s so natural and traditional in form, that it’s so easy to become engaged with whatever a character is going through on the emotional spectrum. Confusion, elation, anger, and ecstasy are all presented in this comic and you buy it; it’s not exaggerated by any means. Nothing is romanticized, which coincides tonally with the writing and direction of the narrative. It’s beauty in grit and bleakness. Also, Morales isn’t afraid to show extreme close-ups and showcase the detail in someone’s face. This inaugural issue is a visceral experience.
That’s only accentuated by Emilio Lopez’s color work. Bright colors are used sparingly to highlight the supernatural powers of the characters. The first page is a gorgeous contrast of the two realities. Bright blue and black, set against a drab orange. It literally sets the tone and look of the entire issue. Lopez never covers up or pulls focus away from Rags Morales’ detailed illustrations – subversively strong artwork. They seem to have a great collaboration going on this title, let’s hope they stay on it!
This is the first issue, so it’s expected to have quite a bit of exposition. Luckily, the creative team is able to deliver a truly immersive comic. It may be difficult to grasp the mythos surrounding the plot, but it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole. Fans will be pleased, just be aware there really isn’t any action in this particular book. Newcomers, check out the past three series (it may be hard to find the first two) and catch up. Amory Wars is back and ready to ignite its readers.
P.S. – Listen to the corresponding Coheed and Cambria album while reading this – interesting experience!