Sunday, March 22, 2015

Red Sonja: Vulture's Circle #3 - A Review

With her school for warrior women destroyed and the forces of Sutekh posed to overtake the northern Hyborian continent, Sonja reluctantly scatters her students to spread word of the coming evil. A solution may be found by communing with the gods themselves. But is Sonja ready to sacrifice the life she has built for herself or to face the goddess she has spurned for so long?

It is unfortunate that after an interesting second chapter that put a truly unique spin on the Red Sonja legend that this third chapter should sink into the malaise that damns so many mini-series starring the Scourge of Hyrkania. I had thought this series based on the more modern take, where Sonja is not beholden to the whims of a goddess and she fights merely because someone must.

Here we learn that Sonja has been taken to the temple of Scathach since childhood. This is, I think, the first time any reference has been made anywhere to Scathach having temples. The implication in previous Sonja stories has been that she was an obscure goddess who chose her champions directly and didn't bother with such finery.

And it seems curious that Sonja's father - by most accounts an ex-warrior who took little pleasure in the soldier's life and gladly became a farmer - would be taking his daughter to the temple of a goddess who represented everything he was leaving behind or that Sonja's mother - who was trying to force the tomboy Sonja into behaving as a girl should - would ever agree to Sonja going to such a place. But whatever.

The real problem comes with the end of this issue, where the Luke Liberman influence becomes most clear and artist Fritz Casas is once again allowed to indulge himself with a little cheesecake.  Now, I have no objection to a little skin in a sword-and-sorcery comic.  It's a part of the fun of the genre.

That being said, depicting Sonja - now a full avatar of Scathach - as naked save for a discrete layer of fire (With flames that grow curiously thinner whenever we view Sonja from behind) seems a little gratuitous. At the very least, it eliminates Sonja's agency and very little is made of the choice she apparently makes without discussing things with the alleged love of her life.

Oh, do you remember him? The man who inspired Red Sonja to give up her life of wandering?  I'm pretty sure they mentioned his name at some point. But the fact that this character is so unmemorable points to the larger problem with this series. There is a saga just waiting to be told about how Sonja didn't just give up her life of adventure for this man - she defied a god oath for her love of him!

Alas, this man is given no more thought than the lawyer-friendly shout out to Conan - aka the unnamed King of Aquilonia who owes Sonja a favor - as we rush to more boobs and blood. This is typical for Red Sonja stories, I know. But this one had been shaping up to be far better.

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