Writer: Jade Lagardère, Art: Butch Guice, Inks: Butch Guice & Mike Perkins, Colors: Dan Brown, Letters: Christa Miesner & Robbie Robbins, Editor: Elizabeth Brei.
I went into this graphic novel from IDW knowing absolutely nothing about the writer or the story. I hadn’t even read the introductory snippet on the back of the book. Is this a spy novel? Is Amber Blake out for revenge? Or is this a love triangle full of deception, violence and sex? Well, it’s a bit of everything and then some as the Jennifer Connelly lookalike grows out of her girlhood naïveté and into an international woman of mystery. Let’s dive in.
Writer Jade Lagardère reels you into what can only be described as a non-stop tour de force, four part origin story. It is the best type of origin tale in that the story is constantly moving forward with new details, clues, and adventure. Lagardère begins with a very young Amber Blake and her mother walking through an ominously dark and deserted snow covered island towards the solitary Merton Castle Orphanage. Amber’s mother leaves her in the charge of the orphanage’s matron and heads back out into the winter night. Honestly, with Butch Guice’s art, you can hear and feel the chill of the howling winds in the panels. Fast forward three years and Amber befriends Amanda, a tough girl with a heart of gold. The two essentially become sisters with matching wrist tattoos as they continue at the orphanage for several years.
Soon thereafter, the girls’ lives change when they are presented with an opportunity that is too good to be true. Ultimately, it is and isn’t necessarily for the better. The shocking turn of events lead Amber into the belly of the underworld in an instant. She becomes fixated with exacting justice on the one who has taken away that which she cared for the most as well as protecting those who cannot help themselves. Weaponizing her brain, beauty, and brawn, Amber recklessly runs head first into the unknown danger that calls for her.
Oftentimes, when I write my reviews I focus more on the style of art and whether or not there is a compelling story worth your while. With regards to Amber Blake, I have to respectfully take a moment to acknowledge the very sensitive issues that are at the very heart of the graphic novel. Most pointedly, the issues of sexual abuse, rape, and pedophilia, as well as the power of the wealthy and their ability to manipulate the lives of the poor, especially children. Lagardère does not use these issues in her novel as a mere trope. Rather, she uses the novel to shine a bright spotlight on the issues and make you think about the true horrors that exist in this world, and how tragically often underprivileged children are taken advantage of, often by the very ones who should be protecting them. Never once does this come across as a political rant of Lagardère’s. It is a global epidemic that merits awareness and support in order to be put to an end.
Jade Lagardère’s Amber Blake, is a one-of-a-kind read. If the story doesn’t pull you in from the get-go, then the compellingly dramatic style of Butch Guice’s art certainly will. I strongly encourage everyone to read this when it releases.
IDW's Amber Blake, Vol. 1 goes on sale on October 30, 2019.