Saturday, March 21, 2015

Altered States: Red Sonja #1

Altered States: Red Sonja opens with some purple prose about the various legends of how Red Sonja met her end and the narrator scorning those who say that she died in battle with the wizard Kulan Gath, begging her goddess not to let the war on evil end with her. And then we get to see that actually is how she died.  So... yeah.

Cut to the future, where Sonja's sword just happens to be in the museum overseen by a red-haired curator named Sonja. Where they just happened to have recently acquired a Hyborian-era mummy. And Sonja just happens to read a translation of ancient runes out-loud next to said mummy, thus performing the resurrection ritual to bring Kulan Gath back to life and enable him to turn modern-day New York City into a twisted mirror of his own time. Luckily Sonja grabs the sword of Red Sonja and she suddenly finds herself in an impractical outfit with the body of a woman who works-out every day and doesn't have a desk job.

If this story seems at all familiar, it's probably because John Byrne and Chris Claremont told it over three decades ago and told the tale far better.  Heck, Dynamite Entertainment retold that tale a few years ago and even that was better than this comic.  But the problems with this book go far beyond a lack of originality.

The chief issue is that the modern-day Sonja is the only one who is aware that the world has been changed. And despite having been given a gym-addict's body and Sonja's famous wardrobe, she has none of The She-Devil's martial skill. So our heroine has to be guided through the adventure by an unseen voice while she barely refrains from having a panic attack.

Is that a bad idea for a story?  No.  Is it a bad idea for a Red Sonja story?  Yes! An incompetent heroine is the last thing we want to see in a Red Sonja book.  Never mind the contrived set-up and the unoriginal story.  The biggest problem with this book is that it isn't about Red Sonja - it's about another redhead named Sonja in the same outfit, with none of the drive of the beloved heroine.

The artwork doesn't help matters. If I were asked to sum up the look of this book in one word, it would be 'inconsistent'. Some of the individual panels look good on their own but taken together the whole book looks like a collection of off-model animation cels from a particularly cheap Anime. And I'm still at a loss as to just how Sonja used her sword to stab this monster in the above page.

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