The Amory War saga continues and it’s just as confusing as ever! Claudio is becoming the Crowing but can’t control his powers. Wilhelm Ryan is back in power and more bloodthirsty than ever. Ryder, the narrator, is going off his meds and it’s wreaking havoc in the Keywork. Does any of that make sense to the casuals?
The Amory Wars: Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Fans of modern day progressive rockers Coheed and Cambria likely got into the group because of their unique “punk rock Rush” vibe that has made them one of the most expansive and musically talented ensembles of recent years. Over the course of eight albums the band, and most specifically its lead singer/songwriter Claudio Sanchez, has used its music to tell a long and circuitous science fiction space opera dubbed the Amory Wars. This complex and ornate story follows the trials and tribulations of the Kilgannon Family, a flawed group of messianic figures seeking to defeat the evil archmage Wilhelm Ryan and restore balance to the universe. There are a lot of cool tricks the band pulls out to tell this story sonically, but like any sci-fi nerd, Sanchez longed for a visual representation of his vision.
This issue, the first of a new ongoing series under BOOM! Studios, is now the second attempt to realize that dream, or at least this portion of it. Sanchez famously crowdfunded another iteration of this story as a graphic novel dubbed “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness” in 2005. Financial constraints, however, prevented Claudio and artist Christopher Shy from fully developing the story. This new take promises to be more involved and true to the author’s intentions, which–hopefully–will make the series a little easier to digest for readers. Fans love Sanchez’s music because of how ornate and layered it is; unfortunately, taking that same approach to his comics has been a mixed bag at best. Claudio clearly wants to craft a dense Dune-like epic that matches the most elaborate daydreams that inspired him, but as a reader it’s a lot to take in. It’s sort of like reading the Song of Ice and Fire books, but those typically have some sort of legend in the back to help you make sense of all the crazy families, locales and concepts that litter that world.
The good news is that while Sanchez is still the driving force behind this story, the actual writing is being handled by Chondra Echert, who does her best to make the series somewhat more palatable. It’s still a lot to take in, but Echert does a decent job of plotting out this issue. I’ll add that there’s a lot to enjoy about Rags Morales’ artwork, particularly his posing and framing of shots. I’m not in love with the character design (not his fault, really as this is the middle portion of an existing property) and occasionally his faces leave a bit to be desired (Erica in particular), but for the most part his artwork is pretty great–even if Wilhelm Ryan looks like a cross between Mumm-Ra and Thanos.
For this actual issue, we spend half the book following Claudio, the sole remaining member of the powerful Kilgannon family, as he trains to accept the mantle of “the Crowing,” a messianic role of prophecy. Haunted by the sins of his past, we see him struggle with the weight of his destiny and argue with his “handler” Ambelina about his fear that the prophecies are wrong. We also spend parts of that sequence going over the return to prominence of the evil Wilhelm Ryan, who wants to be the god of the Keywork by destroying it and rebuilding it in his image. Classic space villain stuff.
More confusingly, the other portions of the book follow a man named Ryder who we learned in an earlier series is actually the true power behind the Keywork (even though the concept was introduced in the album that corresponds to this leg of the story). Ryder is a writer living in “the real world” who is in the process of creating the Amory Wars story. The thing is, he’s also a heavily medicated schizophrenic whose delusions occasionally cause him to interact directly with the fictitious world he’s creating. It’s actually a key point in the end of the issue.
Long story short, this is an involved read that not everyone is going to get. It’s not unlike the band itself: complex and with flashes of brilliance, but only for hardcore fans of its particular genre.