Thursday, October 16, 2014

Red Sonja: The Black Tower #2 - A Review

In my review of the first part of Red Sonja: The Black Tower, I said that this was sword-and-sorcery of the old school - bloody and visceral with little sense of nuance.  For a moment as this second chapter opens, it looks like we might get something more.  True, we start out with lavish illustrations of men in combat and scantily-clad whores with purple prose about how the city of Lur fell into decadence and violence after the arrival of the titular tower.  Then we are given a vision of a mystic sisterhood who rise up, and use the dark magic generated by the tower to smite the wicked.

Alas, the Sisterhood of the Black Tower appear for all of one page. And with the passing of one paragraph, we learn how they were all killed and a number of warlords came and fought over the city, with the eventual winner was the same mercenary leader to whom Sonja delivered the unkindest cut of all in the previous issue.  Sonja herself does not show up until this issue is about a third of the way finished, sporting an eye-patch.  We are then told that her eye was lost in a battle off-camera.

And there are the three biggest problems with The Black Tower in a nutshell. It is a Red Sonja comic for which Red Sonja barely figures into the plot. We are told, not shown, the better portion of that story. And what few bits of the story are interesting or original are quickly discarded in favor of mindless, gory action.

In this regard, I really can't fault artist Cezar Razek too much.  Razek is good at drawing what the script requires - nearly naked women and a lot of blood and severed body parts.  I can, however, fault him for one of the most ludicrous monster-designs this side of a First Edition D&D Fiend Folio.

Red Sonja: The Dark Tower is not merely a bad Red Sonja comic. It is a bad sword-and-sorcery comic. Indeed, I would go so far as to say the issue has but two saving graces. The first is that this story can easily be dismissed as a tall tale involving Sonja - a legend with little truth. The other is that the conclusion of this issue - in which an army of robots with lightsabers show up - is so ludicrously awful that this comic promises to pass the event horizon of merely being bad and become so awful that it demands Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbet riff upon it.

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