Monday, February 24, 2014

Red Sonja #7 - A Review

I would like to open this review by saying a few words about the fantastic artwork of Walter Geovani.  I would like to do that but I won't.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words but for what my words are worth that would seriously short-change Geovani's work.  As such, I shall merely say I enjoy his work and let you look at the scans below to see why.

As for the writing, if there were any doubts that Gail Simone would bring about big changes for Red Sonja, this issue eliminated them.  In fact, Red Sonja #7 does more than eliminate said doubts.  It beheads said doubts and places their heads on spikes before burning what is left of the doubts' corpses.

Yes, fans.  You read that correctly!  Gone is Sonja's infamous oath of chastity, save to any man who can best her in single combat!  And as someone who has written a fair bit and a bit more about the problems with Sonja's oath and her status as a feminist heroine, I for one could not be happier.  But there's more.  Not only is Red Sonja not beholden to an oath of chastity but she's also confirmed to be bisexual.   

Honestly, this has little bearing upon anything, save to change aspects of the character that are rarely touched upon anyway.  Regardless of her oath or who she would like to bed down with, Sonja is still the same grog-swilling, ass-kicking she-devil she's always been.  And in the end, that is all that matters.

The plot of this issue - and apparently the upcoming story arc - is a standard fantasy fetch-quest. Sonja is recruited by a dying noble to track down six great artisans to help him throw the most epic going-away party ever.  Naturally, Sonja is reluctant to sign on for such a frivolous adventure, agreeing to help only after the noble says he will free all his slaves if she can deliver all the artisans within one month.  This leads Sonja to track down the world's greatest chef - currently the captive of the Hyborian equivalent of the family from Deliverance.

Simone's script is hilarious, as one might expect.  Seeing Sonja openly speaking about being randy - a change that might throw off some long-time fans of the character - is thrown into sharp relief as Sonja confronts an enemy that sees her shapely body and thinks of hungers that have nothing to do with the usual urges inspired by a shapely redhead.  Yet there is one sour note in the script that will offend scholars of  Hyborian culture - the concept of Cimmerian Ale.

As any Robert E. Howard purist will tell you, it was established in The Phoenix On The Sword that Cimmerian is a land without alcohol.  As Conan's general Prospero once told Conan, "You laugh greatly, drink deep and bellow good songs; though I never saw another Cimmerian who drank aught but water, or who ever laughed, or ever sang save to chant dismal dirges."

Personally, I think it matters little.  Sonja herself was born of the pastiche - brought forth into the world of Conan by Roy Thomas, based on a heroine from one of Robert E. Howard's historical novels.  And the idea of there being many Sonjas across the whole of reality was suggested by no less than Frank Thorne and Wendy Pini.  So if the idea of a bisexual Sonja, a horny Sonja or Cimmerians who brew beer offend you, consider this tale a view upon another universe and leave the rest of us to enjoy this one.   

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