Know oh gender-neutral nobles, that in times long past the warrior Conan did dominate the world of sword-and-sorcery comics from The House of Ideas. And lo did The Powers That Be decree – in the interest of equality – that there should be a warrior woman who was Conan’s equal in swordplay to headline her own comic book.
Hither came Roy Thomas, who had already crafted such a warrior to compete with The Cimmerian, based upon one of Robert E. Howard’s historical heroines since the world of Hyboria was sadly lacking in such characters. She was Sonja – a mighty warrior, who was fleet of foot, cunning of wit and sensibly dressed in a chain-shirt and leather hot-pants! Much love had Sonja won from the fandom and critics, her first appearance winning the 1973 Academy of Comic Book Arts Award for Best Individual Story (Dramatic).
Yet there were fears that this heroine would not sell to the common comic reader of the day. So it was that Sonja was “revamped” and given a full background that spoke of her rape at the hands of bandits, her blessing by a warrior goddess to defend the innocent afterward and her oath to give herself to no man who could not best her in single combat. Though steeped in Norse mythology, this background would prove to be problematic in the years to come. Many dismissed Sonja out-of-hand because of it, though she was continually written as a badass, though she be taut of buttock, stacked of rack and clad in ridiculously impractical armor.
For years, The She-Devil languished in obscurity. Then The House Of Black Powder resurrected her, spinning new tales of The Scourge of Hyrkania for the first time in a generation! Hither came Red Gail Simone, to revamp Sonja once more. Gone were the stories of rape and gods! Here started a new age undreamed of – one where Sonja was presented as a hero first and a sex symbol second. Though she was still taut of buttock and stacked of rack, it did not seem so gratuitous and she did dress in clothing appropriate to her environment as needed, saving her infamous mail bikini for formal affairs and temperate climes.
Alas, dear nobles, this era seems to have come to a close with Red Sonja Vol. 4 #0. From Sonja’s “cheeky” appearance on the first page, we know exactly what sort of comic this is going to be. We took two steps forward with the excellent artwork of Walter Geovani and Aneke in the previous volumes only to take one big step back with the artwork of Carlos Gomez.
Gomez is known for his work on Dynamite Comics’ Dresden Files graphic novels. Note nobles, that your humble scribe says “known” and not “renowned”. He is known in equal parts for depicting action that does not match up with the text, a lack of continuity between panels and indulging in gratuitous fan-service whenever possible. Being given a book with a heroine who is mostly naked must have seemed an early Christmas present for Gomez, who is just able to skirt the edge of a 16+ rating in his depictions of Sonja while proving unable to decide just how much of her ass is exposed by her breech-cloth from panel to panel.
This sort of thing is part for the course in Red Sonja, of course, and might be endured for the sake of an engaging story. Unfortunately, Red Sonja #0 does not have an engaging story, unless you consider Beastmaster 2: Through The Portal of Time to be a work of classic fantasy.
To call Amy Chu’s script for this issue disappointing would be an understatement. Ignoring the cliche idea of bringing a warrior of old into the modern age (Conan did the same thing in What If? #43 and Sonja herself did it twice before to team up with Spider-Man!) the dialogue throughout this issue is flat and uninspired. There’s no hint of the wit displayed by Gail Simone or Marguerite Bennett in their writing of Sonja, though the story gives Sonja little chance for conversation beyond shouting oaths of vengeance and talking to herself.
At the price of twenty-five cents, Red Sonja #0 is over-priced. The story is unoriginal and the dialogue is as flat as Sonja herself is well-rounded. The artwork is mired in fan-service, made worse by Gomez’s own limitations as an artist. Do not be persuaded to give this book a chance based on the low price. It is not worth it.
2 thoughts on “RED SONJA #0 [Review]”
I could never take Red Sonja seriously. No matter how she was written, no matter how many times people said ‘she’s a nigh-invincible warrior – no really!’, she was almost always drawn as an overinflated underwear model or – it has to be said – an overeager cosplayer. It seemed like her greatest foe should be chronic back pain.
Aside from the comics industry’s ever-present fear of women with more muscle than mammaries… Gail Simone’s tenure might’ve limited it a little, but I think the one thing that’d improve Red Sonja’s image no end would be to get rid of that ridiculous, trope-defining chainmail bikini, permanently. (And before anyone asks, replaced with something that actually makes some sense) Although given the images accompanying this review, and the apparent attitudes of the new ‘creative’ crew, it might be too ingrained – even beyond catering to the male gaze – to be easily discarded.
Simone’s run with Walter Geovani did eliminate the chainmail bikini for the most part. When it did show up, it was in settings where it made sense – i.e. Sonja was in an appropriately warm climate meeting with a client or carousing. Most of the time, Sonja dressed appropriately to her climate (i.e leather armor with high boots in a swamp, fur-trimmed leather with a heavy fur cloak in cold climates, etc.) The Third Volume from earlier this year by Marguerite Bennett and Aneke DID get rid of the chainmail bikini completely.
I fear the armor is part and parcel of Sonja’s legacy. Then again, so was her infamous oath of chastity and Simone was able to sacrifice that with no real loss to the character. Then again, scanty costuming is part and parcel of pulp fantasy in general and John Carter was said to strut around naked but for his weapons belts. Artistic license aside, the stories are fairly egalitarian though the artwork tends to focus on the ladies and if I never see another cover of Dejah Thoris in chains it will be too soon.