Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Red Sonja: The Black Tower #3 - A Review

In my many years as a comics reader and a critic, I have read an awful lot of Red Sonja comics and a lot of awful Red Sonja comics. So when I say that Red Sonja: The Black Tower #3 is the single worst Red Sonja comic ever written, please understand that opinion does not come from hatred or ignorance. It comes from the scholarly consideration of one who is well-versed in the mythos of Hyboria, who understands just how badly this story conforms to the universe it is supposed to be set in.

When one thinks of the sword and sorcery genre, what comes to mind?  Muscular heroes in impractical armor?  Giant animals and fanged demons?  Sensuous sorceresses and decrepit wizard-priests with a glint in their mad eyes that matches the glint on their sacrificial knives?

How about flying saucers, laser swords and robots?

That is the plot of Red Sonja: The Black Tower #3 in a nutshell.  Having twice escaped the wicked town of Lur with her life, Red Sonja (now sporting an eye-patch and a skunk-stripe for no reason that is ever explained) returns leading an allied army of every damn nation in Hyboria to fight the forces of The Black Tower.  Forces, it must be noted, which have already killed every wizard, pirate band, barbarian horde and noble line that it pleased them to go after.

It's Barbarians vs. Aliens and it's every bit as stupid as the premise suggests. And yet, the biggest problem with this series is not the ludicrous concept more befitting a 1980s syndicated cartoon than the oeuvre of Robert E. Howard.  It is the fact that writer Frank Tieri has a bad habit of telling us the story instead of allowing the text and artwork to show us the story.

What is worse, Tieri throws aside whole sagas in sentences.  How Red Sonja united all of these armies under one banner - or how she tamed a giant dragon so she could ride it into battle - is not explained.  You just accept that Sonja somehow got every nation in Hyboria to work together and that she took a crash-course in dragon-riding from the Pern Correspondence School.

I'm still not sure I can fairly criticize Cezar Razek for his artwork on this series. The artwork is competently done, though it is riddled with explicit gore and gratuitous fan-service - even by the standards of sword-and-sorcery!  For instance, one wonders why Sonja has the body of a very shapely 17 year old cheerleader without any scars or signs of hard-living save for the loss of one eye AND the hair of a forty-something woman.

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