Have you ever had one of those dreams where you’re alone in the middle of doing something, and suddenly you find yourself in a crowd, unprepared? It’s that big presentation and the screen won’t work, or you’re on stage and you’ve forgotten all your lines. In Spiralmind: Warrior Ethos, it’s just another rainy night on the job for crimefighter Ben – or so it seems. He gets home from the night’s activities, takes a shower, and then in a flash, he’s gone from the apartment. Much like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator; he appears in another time and place, with only a towel to preserve some modesty. For two minutes, at least. Surrounded by warrior women who wear just a little bit more than underwear; Ben questions whether this is a dream.
I feel like this can plausibly be a dream of Ben’s. Arriving in a society that writer John Morgan Risner describes as being led by Amazon women; the story subverts the typical patriarchal power dynamic. In Vartania, men “know their place”. In fact, there are none allowed in certain regions, with men and women living separately. The women even initially refer to Ben as “it”. While Spiralmind: Warrior Ethos aims to present this as a feminist society, I must admit that it comes across more as a male fantasy. As with a lot of female character designs in superhero or historical fiction, the women wear minimal garments rather than functional armour. As such, they appear through the lens of a very male gaze. Ben also appears naked in multiple scenes and the women objectify him in return. Still, something about this exchange feels a little off.
We discover the reason for this gender divide in society. An act of violence resulted in a war between men and women over the right to lead. Now, each group only meet for three days during the Festival of Life. Men and women pair up for three days and if unable to conceive together, they kill them off. It’s a very dark and dystopian element to the story. While I do think it’s rather grim, I like that it adds some depth to the world. The main conflict comes from the men’s hidden motives for the upcoming festival.
What I enjoy most about Spiralmind: Warrior Ethos is its supernatural and otherworldly elements. The Spiralmind itself is an interesting aspect of the story. It appears to be a power that Ben can tap into both actively and when he least expects. Handily, it has the ability to translate languages. It’s a sci-fi device used by Doctor Who‘s TARDIS that never goes amiss when dealing with other civilisations. It also appears to be a way to witness events like a second sight. Usually, Ben can’t interact with these other eras. Finally, he can also use it to defend himself. He puts it to good use against enemies – both human and demonic. I like that we don’t learn exactly where it comes from. It adds this sense of mystery to the story.
Other supernatural elements include a character named Valas who can read minds, a prophecy about a chosen one, and multiple creepy creatures. This other world introduces us to nephilim or djinn, creatures who are the offspring of gods and humans. They can disguise themselves as humans to deadly effect. One of them masquerades as Princess Altara to try and kill Ben. A highlight from the graphic novel is the moment when the djinn reveals herself, and the ensuing conflict that follows between Ben and the real Altara. The transformation scene is swift and effective. Another highlight is when the true villains reveal themselves with an act of betrayal. It’s a gruesome moment that adds to a touch of horror to the comic.
In visual terms, the art team contrasts between the different settings of Spiralmind: Warrior Ethos. In the opening, we see a modern day hero in a very Gotham-esque city of dark blues, both inside and outside the building. I like that this cues us into believing the story will go a certain way in terms of tone, before changing vastly in a split second. When Ben arrives in another dimension, the colour scheme switches to pinks, tans and golden yellows. Initially, this is down to the sheer amount of skin on show. But it’s also evident in the decor of the Citadel of Light. I like the use of humour when Ben discovers colourful armour and muses that it doesn’t fit this world. It breaks the fourth wall for a moment and adds another dimension to the story.
Overall, Spiralmind: Warrior Ethos contains some interesting elements, particularly around the lore of Vartania and its history. I’m also interested to learn more about the Spiralmind and its connection to Ben. My only gripe concerns the portrayal of the all-female society. I have no issues with a racy fantasy story. Game of Thrones capitalises on this! If Risner framed this comic as such, I may have experienced it differently. I feel a slight disconnect between the idea of the women being in control and the focus on Ben’s desires. Where the comic really succeeds for me is its pacing and battle scenes. There’s no shortage of action and it powers along while building the story. If you’re looking for a quick romp through time, then this could be the one for you!
Are you a fan of time-travel and fantasy? Looking for a Fairy Tail-like adventure in terms of action and skin shown? You can find Spiralmind: Warrior Ethos over at Amazon. Tell us, what do you think of the character designs and the all-female society? A fan of its depiction or no? Head over to Facebook or Twitter and let us know!