Review by Ian Keogh
Although to others she might seem privileged, Amber’s childhood and youth is peppered with upsets, exploitation and tragedy from the day her mother drops her off at an orphanage. She’s smart enough to be chosen as a pupil for the exclusive Cleverland organisation, and when that ends badly she’s recruited by secret organisation Argon and trained to high physical standards via brutal methods. All the while she nurtures a desire for revenge. This process of learning and abuse is only the background material, yet occupies around a third of Amber Blake, and is hammered home with such little subtlety that the feeling is Jade Lagardère wrestles with her own demons from her days as a young teenage model. We certainly feel pity for Amber as intended, but a professional writer could have supplied the story requirements in significantly fewer pages and without the obvious button pushing emotions.
What prevents the opening section of Amber Blake from being a decompressed misery memoir is the professional illustration of Butch Guice. He’s known for his graphic realism, and supplies page after page of it, gorgeous views supplied from distance, perfect replicas of a classic Austin-Healey sports car and more modern Mini, dozens of beautiful people and cinematic action.
Argon’s mission is to take down slavery rings and drug traffickers, and by halfway Amber’s training is completed and her first mission hasn’t gone to plan. Something that may also be personal for Lagardère is the constant reiteration that Amber must follow orders, whereas her successes are achieved when she instead follows her instincts. Despite that, there are very few points where Amber isn’t being victimised, and even fewer surprises as Amber Blake runs an extremely predictable course, until a frankly preposterous ending. Lagardère wants to provide a big surprise, but hasn’t taken into consideration what that says about everything Amber has been put through.
The class is all in the art as the story is melodramatic and trite.