Review – Amber Blake #1 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Jade Lagardère
Artwork: Butch Guice
Lettering: Christa Miesner, Robbie Robbins
Release Date: 3rd April 2018

In the depths of winter, a small child is left at an orphanage on the small island of Jersey, her mother disappearing into the snow without a trace. Amber Blake is raised in the not-too-gentle care of Merton Castle until one day she and her best friend are rescued by the philanthropic organisation Cleverland. When the masks start to fall away from her benefactors, Amber finds herself on the run and forced into a world of espionage and revenge.

Amber Blake is an interesting espionage thriller which has all the boxes ticked for a story where our protagonist has triumphed over tragedy and adversity and made a success of her life, only to have it all pulled out from under her in tragic circumstances. This whole cycle of tragedy, success and tragedy priming our heroine for the approach of the enigmatic and shadowy organisation known as Argon. I’m not, however, 100% certain what audience it’s aiming for. There are sections of this first issue that are very definitely in the young adult section of the market, with a ‘teen secret agent’ feel, whereas there are also some sections that very definitely fall into the adult market with some quite tough themes, including rape, drug abuse, pedophilia and human trafficking.

Jade Lagardère has developed what, for me, might not be the most original story. It’s very much in the vein of Phillips and Brubaker, albeit without the experience and polish that they have become masters at, but it does have the makings of a really good series. My only criticism of the writing is that whilst the female characters are very well-developed and fleshed out, the male characters, without exception, are fairly generic and one-dimensional. I feel really guilty writing this because after decades of men writing generic and one-dimensional female characters, some slack should be cut but I’m so used to seeing female writers that write all their characters so well that this is a bit of a surprise.

Butch Guice’s art is pretty good throughout, and there’s a grit in the artwork that really highlights the horrors that Amber and her friends face. Without getting too much into spoiler territory, the scene of the attempted rape and subsequent rescue of Amber is done with quite a skill and manages to capture the absolute horror of what’s happening in a way that’s not offensively graphic.

I think I need to see more issues of this series for me to decide what I really think about it. On the face of it there’s a lot of promise, but there are also a few moments that jar and take you out of the story. Maybe this is a series that would benefit from being read as an OGN or in TPB volumes? Only time will tell.

Rating: 2.5/5.



The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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