Sword #1-4

Written by Joshua Luna
Art by Jonathan Luna
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I’m not entirely sure why I’ve never actually read a comic by the Luna Brothers before. Their debut title Ultra was a break-out hit (and stood out on the stands with their faux-magazine covers), and Girls seemed to fend quite well for itself as well. So with their new title, The Sword, it seemed like a right time to finally take a look at just what they’re putting together. The end result? Not at all what I was expecting. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Alex and Elizabeth Brighton are living the good life. He’s an English professor at a local college, and they have two adult children; Andrea recently bought a new condo, and the fact that Dara is in a wheelchair doesn’t keep her from taking care of herself and doing quite well in her art classes at college. Then one night three mysterious strangers show up at dinner, demanding the return of their sword. And when the dust settles, three people will be dead, and a fourth changed forever.

The Sword spends a lot of the first issue setting up a status quo that is about to be broken, in more ways than one. It’s an interesting tactic from Joshua Luna, not so much for using a pretty basic idea, but rather because later issues of the series are almost shockingly different. It works well here, though; you get a good idea of just what life was really like for the Brighton family, and it makes Dara’s loss and transformation all the more jolting when it finally occurs. Luna does a good job with Dara, keeping her very much a real person thrown into a horrible series of events. It’s a very believable take on the character, and as a result it’s also much easier to empathize with her plight. It’s this realistic take on Dara that also makes the violence in the series that much more unpalatable; it stands out in stark contrast to her character, and the massacres that occur that much more disturbing. If The Sword starred a character who was nonchalant about killing people, those scenes wouldn’t have made much of an impact. Instead. Joshua Luna is able to make the tragedy that hit Dara’s family and the things that Dara since had to do that much more disturbing and sad to read about, because you begin to get an idea as to the impact it’s having on her psyche.

Jonathan Luna’s art in The Sword is very slick and polished, reminding me a great deal of animation cels. It’s composed with very clean lines and comes across crisp and lively. I really appreciated the fact that Jonathan Luna takes the time to make all of the locations look real, with one particular trick being for outside scenes using an out-of-focus backdrop behind the characters. It’s a simple thing to do for panels that would otherwise just be talking heads, but it adds a real layer of richness to the art, even as it lets Jonathan Luna have more time to draw the backgrounds for scenes with a wider visual field. He’s got a real grasp for motion as well; there’s a scene where Dara is fumbling through the edge of a lake for a hidden weapon and is suddenly pulled back out by her attackers, and the way that her body jerks back looks very real, and not stiff or posed. My only real nitpick with the art is that he often seems to have a limited set of faces for his characters; Dara and Justin look like male and female versions of the same character (even down to their bangs), and while the two police officers have different skin colors and hair, it’s a little disturbing when they’re next to each other and it looks like they could somehow also have been the end result of a strange cloning experiment.

The Sword is not at all what I was expecting. It’s a pretty violent, action-packed book but that’s in part because it stands out due to the characters and setting that they’ve placed it in. I’m impressed, because it ends up a much more interesting book than if Dara had simply rolled with the situation and become a cold-blooded killer. The Sword seems determined in places to make you uncomfortable, both in terms of what its heroes and villains do, and that’s a good thing. It’s well thought-out and drawn, and I’ll certainly keep reading this series.

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