Sunday, February 14, 2010

Red Sonja: Wrath of the Gods #1

I knew we were in trouble the minute I saw the cover.

In my humble opinion, Red Sonja is one of those characters who cannot be shown to be in a position of weakness. Peril, yes. You can show her in a monster's claws or facing down a man twice her size with a broken weapon. But she should not ever be made to look helpless, particularly on a book cover. And I can't think of any time I've ever seen the She Devil of Hyrkania looking more helpless than here, on her knees with a blade at her throat.

Things aren't much better once we get into the book proper. Walter Geovani, the artist, worked most recently on the monthly Red Sonja title during the Brian Reed days when it seemed like every other page was a splash page and the splash pages were full of cheesecake. Even by the standards of Sword and Sorcery books. Apparently the Hyrkanias, in addition to being the proudest riders and horse people in Hyboria, invented the leather thong.

Anyway, Sonja meets a boy who claims to be part of some outcast tribe. He claims that Sonja, by virtue of her red hair, must also be a part of the same tribe. Just ignore everything we know about Sonja's background... it looks like Luke Lieberman did.

After an altercation with a blonde warrior woman (whom - for some reason - nobody seems to have any issue with yet they are ready to kick Sonja out for "not being of their kind) and the payment of one big ruby, Sonja is convinced to follow the boy to his secret homeland far in the north. And here is where cheesecake meets stupidity and clashes with story in order to make something that should make sense and yet does not.

Yes. That would be Red Sonja, shivering in the cold.

On the one hand, this makes perfect sense. In a realistic world, Sonja's costume would be terribly impractical as armor and as a garment for protecting one from the elements. And that fur cloak isn't clasped tightly enough to do anything, save offer a good view of Sonja's body.

On the other hand, it's a convention of these comics that nobody ever notices the cold no matter how scanty their outfit is. This is a land before time where men were men, women were women and unholy tentacle beasts were unholy tentacle beasts.

The joke is sealed a page later when Sonja says she "does not favor the cold". Which begs the question of why she was traveling here in the first place and not in the climates where scale mail bikini is somewhat more feasible, if not practical.

Anyway, they wind up in a cave, the kid explains this was the only way to his homeland is by riding an underground river and they eventually wind up at a sealed up city. Everyone is scared and the comic ends with a whole horde of monsters breaking down the city gates and demanding the magic book that the boy is carrying.

The Final Verdict: My hopes weren't high but this may well be the worst comic I read all year. The artwork is competent enough but - as in the most recent Red Sonja books with Walter Geovani art - the pin-up factor is high with every page looking like a centerfold shot. And as in all of Luke Liberman's past Red Sonja stories, the character of Sonja is bent and hammered like a sword in the forge to fit the purposes of the story when it should be the other way around.

Go read Queen Sonja instead.

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