Monday, July 6, 2009
Red Sonja #44 & #45
Red Sonja has finally become what its' fans feared it would become and what its' critics have claimed it always was; a book that puts cheesecake artwork over story.
Granting that the character has always been a sexual being and that artists have been taking advantage of that to sell books for years, it has never been this bad. Yes, there were alternate covers galore and a lot of them were heavy on the cheesecake. But for the most part, the alternate covers did a good job of depicting Sonja as a strong and confident woman in the heat of battle. And for the first 30 issues or so, the series was well written and respectful of the Hyborian setting inspired by the works of Robert Howard.
That changed with the coming of Brian Reed and a storyline that was only tangentially related to what had come before and seemed to have only a few place names in common with the works of Robert E. Howard.
The story thus far is summed up on the title page of the book.
Her people slain, lands destroyed and memories and past not her own, Sonja now travels once again with Osin - the grizzled warrior who knew her in times past, even though she has no memory of that past herself.
Together they strike forth to seize The Blood Dynasty, an object of immense power or utmost mystery that may well hold the origins of Sonja's ultimate destiny as she again finds herself reborn as the She-Devil of Hyrkania - Red Sonja!
It's a neat summary, even though it completely ignores or trivializes most of the events of the story thus far, including the facts that...
* Lady Sonja had a rather nice life with a wonderful husband before he died, her lands were destroyed and she was left for dead.
* She had a sister named Verona, who betrayed her family for the love of Lucan; a rival who also seeks The Blood Dynasty.
* The Blood Dynasty is a gem, which legends has it was the first weapon and also has a history of being wielded by red-haired women. In the past, it was used to slay a Cthulhu-like beastie and was fought over by two feuding warrior clans in the Far East.
* Sonja summoned said Cthulhu beastie, nearly destroyed Stygia in the process and rode the corpse to Khitai, the Hyborian equivalent of China. No, really.
* Osin apparently killed the goddess who created Red Sonja, after making a bargain with an Ape God, which gave him a monsterous ape hand. Kinda like Claw The Unconquered but not.
All of this turns out to be pretty pointless since... well, let me just sum up the issues real quick.
* Lucan (the other man seeking The Blood Dynasty) sells Verona and his own daughter into slavery to get the money for a ship.
* Osin, follows the trail of the Chtulhu-esque monster to Khitai (i.e. The Far East) and goes looking for Sonja, thinking he might have to kill her given that she nearly destroyed Stygia summoning the monster in the first place in order to learn where The Blood Dynasty might be now. (And destroying Stygia is a problem... WHY?)
* Osin, in killing Sonja's goddess, caused her to be reborn improperly so she is now stronger but also more bloodthirsty than ever.
* Flashback depicting how two clans of ninjas - one in white, one in black - fought over The Blood Dynasty and died. We saw this a few issues ago, with one of the ladies leading the clan being a familiar looking redhead.
* Lucan reassures his new pirate crew that they cannot fail because he has a grail diary... er book of lore, that will tell him how to get to The Blood Dynasty before Sonja.
* Sonja finds the battlefield where the fight between the two clans took place, along with a lot of corpses and ghosts. She also suddenly winds up in a white kimono and with her hair done up in pins and with a rose, after she attacked the Black Ninja leader, suggesting... uh... the artist really wanted to draw Sonja as a geisha?
* Osin finally catches up with Sonja and she says they need to talk.
Honestly, I have no idea what is happening at this point. And I don't really care. The book has become nothing but splash-page after splash-page and this whole last issue seems to have been written entirely because the artist wanted to draw a whole bunch of ninjas. And while there are a lot of books that can be done in, Red Sonja should not be one of them.
Maybe we'll get lucky and this will make sense with Issue #50, but I doubt it.