Sunday, March 4, 2012

Witchblade/Red Sonja #1 - A Review

One of the things I like best about my comic store of choice - Keith's Comics of Dallas - is that they are very good about putting aside issues or items that tie in to my particular interests. For instance, I have a standing order for all things relating to Robert Howard fantasy characters. That way if I miss a Conan or King Kull special on the wall, I can be assured they will let me know about it. I mention this, not only to praise a wonderful store, but to describe just how I came to find myself going home with a copy of Witchblade/Red Sonja #1.

I have to admit my hopes were not high going into this issue. There are probably hundreds of comics devoted toward teaming up two female heroes, usually ones famous for scanty costuming, and forcing them into an unlikely alliance against unholy forces. Witchblade in particular is famous for this sort of thing having done multiple crossovers with Lara Croft, Lady Death, Darkchylde and Elektra, to name a few.

Knowing this, I still decided to give this issue a shot. Don't judge a book by it's cover, and all that. But more than that, with what I knew of Witchblade and had read on Ron Marz's Twitter feed, the character had changed a lot in recent years. They had eliminated the aspect of her weapon that ripped the clothes off its' host to reveal a scanty metal bikini and gone on to emphasize the Witchblade's importance as an instrument of balance in an on-going battle between order and chaos. And as I've noted before in my own writings, Sonja - who gets quite a bad rap given her origins and usual costuming - is one of the most consistently well-written female characters in modern fantasy. Wouldn't a team up of such two misunderstood heroines be a great idea? With a different creative team and concept, perhaps. But this team-up book isn't really a team-up book and both halves of its' story fail to impress.

The first story shows Red Sonja heading toward a cave in the wilderness in search of the monsters responsible for kidnapping several virgin maidens. She meets up with Nissa - the bearer of the Witchblade in her time - and the two agree to join forces to deal with what seems to be a mutual enemy. In the second story, we focus upon Sara Pezzini - the bearer of the Witchblade in modern times. A single mother and police officer, we find out that she is currently dating her partner and that she's apparently part of a special unit that deals with unusual crimes. This leads to her fighting a dragon in a recently trashed museum and reveals that what I heard about how her costume has changed is true. Her clothes still get ripped off but at least now the Witchblade is generating pants rather than a spiked steel thong. She's still showing a ludicrous amount of cleavage though...

The artwork is the worst kind of bad-girl cheesecake. Sonja herself frequently "loses her head" or has her face obscured by her hair in scenes where she is speaking, with only her body being shown, as above. It's almost as if the artist was afraid of drawing her face! Sara is somewhat better off, but only just. Both heroines come off extremely posed on every page.

The worst part of all this is that this team-up book isn't really a team-up book. The two heroines don't interact at all and there's no seeming connection between their two stories, save for a version of Witchblade being inserted into the Red Sonja story. The Witchblade half of the comic seems like just another Witchblade story, as far as I can tell and is all the duller for that. There's little effort to make us relate to Sara as a character and what little attempt there is to explain the circumstances of her life and relationship with her partner to new readers (as seen in the above scan) is rather ham-fisted.

By contrast, the Red Sonja half of the issue would make for a decent story and indeed I could see a Red Sonja/Primeval Witchblade being a good idea. As it is, the plot is rather weak with a twist upon a twist at the very end, where the ultimate evil Sonja seeks is changed twice in as many pages. And apart from showing up to introduce herself and saving Sonja from getting back-stabbed at the same time Sonja is saving her from getting back-stabbed (both heroines somehow managing to have a giant sneak up on them), the Primeval Witchblade doesn't really do anything.

I'll be giving future issues of this mini-series a pass. I suggest you do the same.

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