Sunday, August 12, 2012

Red Sonja: Atlantis Rising #1

Within the first five pages of Red Sonja: Atlantis Rises, Atlantis does indeed rise from the depths, elevated by the recently deceased (though not for long) sorcerer Thulsa Doom. This is one thing I can say about this book - it does deliver on the promise of its' title! Yes, that's one good thing I can say about it. And it is one of the only good things I can say about it.

For a book that has Red Sonja's name on it, there's precious little Red Sonja in it. This has been the case before in other Red Sonja stories written by author Luke Lieberman, who is also the credited creator of this particular version of Thulsa Doom. Most of this issue depicts Sonja reacting to Doom's actions, somehow knowing he's responsible for the sudden flooding of the lands she's traveling through. This issue also brings us the return of Talos, a bard first seen in Lieberman's Doom of The Gods, whose main contribution here is also somehow realizing Doom is responsible for the flooding and going to tell some king that the only hope they have is getting Red Sonja to lead his armies against Atlantis.

All of this adds up to a fairly fractured narrative. Characters know things because they know them and do things because the script says they should. Despite some good action scenes of Sonja saving people, Sonja comes off as a very ineffectual heroine. As is frequently the case in Lieberman's stories, Sonja is less of a character and more of a tool of the male characters who have all the knowledge and make all the decisions. And yet, she still fares better than Thulsa Doom.

Thulsa Doom, as depicted here, comes off as the stupidest evil wizard in the history of evil wizards. It is unclear exactly what his plans were in raising Atlantis from the deeps and raising its' inhabitants from the dead. One thing that is clear is that if you are a necromancer capable of raising whole sunken continents and waking the dead, presumably in anticipation of forming an unstoppable army of darkness, you should probably do so on a continent whose destruction you are not directly responsible for. And if you choose to do this anyway, you should have access to some kind of magic that ensures your would-be undead minions cannot turn against you.

Less clear is why the newly risen King of Atlantis doesn't just kill Thulsa Doom and be done with it. Nor why he decides "Well, that evil, untrustworthy guy I just threw in the dungeon wanted us to do this for some reason. What the hell! We're awake. Let's go ahead and do it!"

I will not say that Max Dunbar is a bad artist but I will say his particular style, which reminds me of the films of Don Bluth, is ill-suited towards this kind of tale. It is hard to take a grand epic of continents rising and zombie armies marching seriously when everything is depicted in so cartoonish a manner. Our heroine is drawn less like a well-muscled valkyrie and more like a Barbie doll, with a freakishly thin waist and pencil-neck! And Thulsa Doom, even granting that he's probably a bit tuckered out and might be a bit emaciated from raising a continent and creating a new body for himself (which begs the question of why he didn't grow his arm back), looks more like Dhalsim from the Street Fighter video games than the well-muscled Nubian demigod we're used to seeing.

Let's not beat around the bush. This may well be the worst comic I've read all year. Ignoring my own antipathy for Luke Lieberman's version of Thulsa Doom, every character in this story is paper thin and their actions are driven entirely by the plot, with no concern about logical motivations. The artwork is better suited toward a children's graphic novel than a dark fantasy epic. All in all, it's a waste of good paper and/or hard drive space.

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