Monday, October 14, 2013

Red Sonja #4 - A Review

 There may be some debate amongst serious scholars of the sword and sorcery genre as to what aspect of Gail Simone's Red Sonja is the most blasphemous.  I've spoken before about how Howard purists (many of whom take issue with the idea of Red Sonja in the first place) would likely disapprove of an army of sentient beast men working in an organized army under a human leader.  One can only imagine what those same purists of the Howard and Lovecraft oeuvre think of seeing such creatures acting as comic relief!  

I say let the purists hang!  The Hyborian World has grown vast enough under various pastiche novels and comic book adaptations that there is very little that cannot be accounted for somehow.  For instance, the original Dynamite Entertainment series written by Mike Carey and Michael Avon Oeming saw Sonja fighting alongside lion-men and making love to gods.  The series then continued with the idea of Red Sonja being an eternal heroine reborn across generations - an idea seeming inspired by Frank Thorne and Wendy Pini's Red Sonja stage-show.

Sonja and her legends have outgrown the mythos that inspired her and she is become a legend unto herself. Sonja's stories are not histories to be recorded in a dusty chronicle!  They are tales to be told around a fire or between friends in a tavern, with each teller trying to outdo the last in sheer wildness.

In that spirit, Simone is rebuilding the myth of Red Sonja (or at least, this incarnation of her) from the ground up.  Last month's flashback-driven issue eliminated Sonja's rape at the hands of the warriors who killed her family from her history.  This month's issue shows something of Sonja's learning how to fight in the slave pits of Zamora.  Simone shows that while the young Sonja is naturally talented and capable of killing several men in an ambush, she knows little of true battle.  She is a brawler, not a warrior.

Curiously, there has yet to be any mention of the goddess who had previously given Sonja her amazing skill in battle in exchange for a rather vague oath of chastity.  It is this aspect of the Sonja myth which Howard purists find most troubling, preferring the good gods of Hyboria (assuming any exist) be indifferent at best.  It would be amusing indeed if Simone arranged for Sonja's legend to be built upon natural skill and training rather than divine mandate! 

All of this is ably illustrated by the talented Walter Geovani.  I have no word to describe Geovani's work save one.  Perfection.  His character designs are memorable and unique.  His inks not too light or too thick.  His action scenes are well-displayed.  I cannot find any fault in the artwork at all. 

The bottom line?  Red Sonja - as a book and as a character - have not been this fun in quite some time.  This has always been a book I enjoyed reading but now it is a book I look forward to.  The purists can continue their debates about continuity and what constitutes a proper Hyborian tale.  I'll continue laughing my ass off at the funny fish-men, thank you!    

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