On rare occasions, I come across a comic where the disparity between writing and art is so great as to be unbelievable. A illustrated story where the level of quality is first-rate for one aspect and piss-poor for the other. Red Sonja #67 is such a comic.
Our story begins with Sonja and her companions heading east across the sea. Fresh from an adventure in Stygia, the rough sea voyage is a welcome change of pace from the dark sorcery and plots within plots the party recently dealt with. Sadly, the voyage proves to be anything but restful as Sonja and her company must face monstrous animals, a shipwreck and hostile natives.
Eric Trautmann's story is simple but strongly told. It would be difficult to suggest a standard sword-and-sorcery story but this tale comes close, being full of comedy, action and daring-do. And in these days when decompressed storytelling is the norm, Trautmann deserves high praise for putting more action in a single issue than many comics manage across a six-issue storyline.
Would that the art was the equal of the story! The artwork by Marcio Abreu is as weak as Trautmann's story is strong. It's not that Abreu is a bad artist but his character design is incredibly inconsistent. There are several points where Sonja's face seems to be an afterthought compared to the rest of her body. As a result, Sonja's face looks different from panel to panel at some points.
More worrying is Sonja's ever-shrinking chainmail skirt and Abreu's apparent inability to avoid drawing up-skirt shots on every other page. Granting that the sword-and-sorcery genre is rife with fanservice, much of this artwork is just plain ridiculous. I do not believe it is possible, even through dark sorcery, for any wind to be great enough to move Sonja's breechcloth upwards while her hair hangs straight down, unmoving. Indeed, I am torn between what is more incredulous - how frequently Sonja's bare ass is seen from behind or how she miraculous manifests white schoolgirl panties whenever her skirt blows up from the front.
I want to recommend this book. I really do. More than any writer since Mike Carey, Eric Trautmann has presented a Red Sonja who is strong, capable and progressed past her origins as a female Conan equivalent. Sadly, the artwork of Marcio Abreu is so poor as to drag this entire book into the gutter.