Amy Winston is just a normal girl, until she receives a gemstone for her 13th birthday—an amethyst. Almost immediately her life is turned upside down as she is taken to another dimension where time passes differently and magical isn’t just real, but as normal as breathing. While there, she learns that she might not be who she thought she was, and that a destiny awaits her: To save Gemworld from the evil Dark Opal!
Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #1-12
Written by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn; Art by Ernie Colon and Rick Estrada
DC Comics, 1983/September 2012
Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld is a 12 issue Maxi-series that DC Comics published back in the mid-80s. It has re-emerged lately with both the release of a trade paperback under the Showcase Presents… title as well as a reboot written by Christy Marx of “Jem and the Holograms” fame. All this talk inspired me to dig out my old issues of the Maxi-series. I had originally read the series went it first came out, so after 25 years, it was like reading it for the first time all over again!
The story begins with Amy Winston coming home from going out to dinner for her birthday. A mysterious gift has been left for her. It is an amethyst pendant, her birthstone. As she is preparing for bed, a monster comes out of her closet and grabs her, pulling her into another dimension, where confusion is added to her fear as she also ages seven years to appear as a 20-year-old adult. The monster is a servant of Dark Opal, a cruel tyrant who 20 years ago (in Gemworld time) attacked the rulers of Gemworld, the House of Amethyst, and killed the heads of the house, Amy’s parents. Now he wants to finish the job. Amy is rescued just in time by Granch, who is loyal to the House of Amethyst and takes her to see Citrine, who has ruled the House of Amethyst in her stead all these years.
The first part of the series introduces Amy to Gemworld and Dark Opal and his henchmen Sardonyx, his right-hand man, and Carnelian, his adopted son, who has no magical powers. It’s a jarring introduction, as she is thrown into a world she knows nothing about with powers she doesn’t understand. She has to deal with the revelations that the people who have raised her for the last 13 years (Earth time) are not really her parents and that the people of Gemworld see her as their only hope for freedom. That’s a lot for someone who has just turned 13 to deal with. She spends a lot of time going back and forth between Earth and Gemworld as she struggles between the quiet, comfortable life she has known on Earth and the excitement and danger that Gemworld offers. It’s the wish fulfillment of a teenager to be grown up and special, versus the comfort of still being a child with parents to soothe her. Amy’s struggles with these two worlds and the choice she must make are conveyed very well, and the angst Amy feels is obvious, as is the determination when she finally makes her decision to help Gemworld after facing Dark Opal’s treachery.
Once Amy has accepted her destiny, she throws herself wholeheartedly into into preparing for the coming battle by learning to control and use her magic, learning hunting and battle skills as well as strategy. It is also in this next part of the series that the other Houses of Gemworld are introduced. Most of the major gemstones are represented as major houses: Topaz, Sapphire, Garnet, Diamond, Ruby and Emerald, as well as some of the lesser gems, such as Moonstone and Turquoise. While all submit to Dark Opal’s will, not all are loyal. Moonstone and Turquoise are especially vocal and are among the first to take Amethyst’s side when she crashes a wedding between Lady Sapphire and Topaz, the younger son of the House Topaz. A romantic element is introduced in this part of the story, as Topaz and Amethyst start to feel an attraction to each other. This element is kept to the background and never interferes with the story. It’s also in this part that the first death occurs, showing that this isn’t just some game. Lives are at stake.
The final part of the story is the preparation for and the big battle with Dark Opal. The Houses that stand with Amethyst prepare for the battle, while those who chose Dark Opal begin to doubt their choices as he plays with them as a cat plays with a mouse. Some sacrifices are made, and old rivalries are put aside, all for the good of Gemworld. When the final battle arrives, it comes down to Amethyst vs. Dark Opal, and Opal’s Achilles’s heel turns out to be himself and his betrayal of his closest allies. Only by all of Gemworld coming together can Dark Opal be finally and completely defeated. Maybe… The story ends happily, but not the way you would expect. The twist ending is actually refreshing.
Amethyst would be rated for teens, but it’s appropriate for tweens as well. There is death, but it’s all off-screen. There is no actual gore, but some blood is shown. There is a touch of romance. It is shown mostly in the lulls between battles, and consists mostly of hand-holding, eye-gazing and maybe a kiss or two. The story is very much a fantasy, with Gemworld filled with strange, magical creatures, such as talking snakes, transforming lizards, and pixies—even the trees have faces! The style might seem a little dated and, Amethyst’s clothing a little frilly and “princess-y,” but it works in the fantasy world. My review is based on the original 12 issue series, but DC Comics has released a trade paperback that includes the original series, specials that bookend the first series, and the first eleven issues of the sequel series. The only bad thing about this re-release is that it is in black and white instead of its original color.
Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld is just what girls, or anyone for that matter, would want in a comic. It features a strong female protagonist the reader can relate to and never talks down to her or tries to tell her what she should want. It is a straightforward action/adventure with fantasy and romantic elements that enhance the story but never overwhelm it. It’s a coming-of-age story that takes the protagonist and the reader on a fantastic journey without overdosing on melodrama or angst. If more comics were written like this, then headlines such as “Girls Read Comics?!” would become a thing of the past.