Deep in the heart of The Amazon, the warrior woman called Sheena protects the jungle and her people from everything that endangers their peaceful way of life. Whether it be the evils posed by hostile tribes or wild beasts, Sheena stands ready to oppose enemies from within and without.
It is the enemies without who are proving most troublesome at present. Drones fly throughout the jungle and Sheena is dimly aware of their purpose as devices for spying, though she still calls them “iron turtles”. They are an annoyance but not as pressing as the latest danger to directly threaten Sheena’s tribe.
Armed mercenaries in the employ of Cadwell Industries – a ruthless developer that is destroying the jungle for their own twisted purposes – have been sent out in search of a surveyor lost somewhere in the rain forest. The only available evidence – a scrap of cloth found in Sheena’s village – suggests that Sheena’s tribe was responsible for killing him.
Thankfully, the mercenary leader claims not to be a bad man and is willing to give Sheena three days to find the surveyor before his men kill her people in retaliation. Thus begins a desperate race to find this “Sir Veyor” before the jungle claims his life!
The 2007 Sheena revamp truly recreated the character for a new age. Abandoning the generic jungles of Africa for the fictional South American banana republic of Val Verde, this Sheena focused on fighting loggers and land-developers instead of slavers and strange cultists. She was also given a full origin story, which revealed her as Rachel Cadwell – the lost granddaughter of industrialist Harrison Cadwell, whose businesses threatened the jungle that Sheena was sworn to protect. The opening miniseries concluded with “Rachel” preparing to live a double life, playing the dutiful granddaughter while fighting her family’s excesses as Sheena in secret.
Sadly, none of that background or the excellent supporting cast that earlier series developed are in evidence here. Indeed, apart from a passing mention of Val Verde in one continuity box and the presence of Steven E. De Souza’s name on the credits page, there’s no indication at all that Dynamite Entertainment‘s new Sheena series has any connection to the world of the Sheena reboot. This is a crying shame because if there’s anyone who could have fun with the concept of a heroine who plays the pampered socialite by day while fighting for the environment by night, it’s DC Bombshells‘ author Marguerite Bennett.
The story presented here by Bennett and co-writer and Christina Trujillo proves sadly generic, with stock characters up to and including an village elder who is only known as Elder. This issue is also surprisingly free of action, apart from Sheena’s destroying a drone on the second page and a brief struggle with the lead mercenary before Elder talks her down. The one bright spot in all of this is Sheena herself, who proves a capable and likable heroine despite her lacking the humor of her 2007 incarnation.
A larger problem lies with the artwork of Sheena #1. While this issue is free of the continuity problems regarding Sheena’s costume and the ever-changing skirt/breech-cloth/bikini-bottom design which plagued Sheena #0, this book lacks any sense of visual continuity between its two artists. Moritat’s streamlined style stands in sharp contrast the detail-driven aesthetic favored by Dimi Macheras and the sudden shifts in appearance are jarring to say the least. This ignores Moritat’s unfortunate grasp of anatomy and tendency to draw characters that are meant to be angry as looking half-asleep.
The color art – also provided by two different artists – offers another difficulty. Mortiat often utilizes similar shades of one color to alter all of a single page’s coloration. While this proves effective in inspiring a feeling of urban decay on the page depicting the drone pilot in his cramped university apartment, it serves only to make the jungle scenes look dead and muddy. Everything in Sheena’s village is painted in dull shades of brown and grey. Colorist Casey Silver adds in some rich greens – both to the jungle and the mercenary uniforms – yet this only serves to drive home how drab Moritat’s colors are apart from the deep green reserved for Sheena’s eyes.
Sheena #0 was a disappointment. Sheena #1 is a greater disappointment, with bland art, blander colors and a plot that would have been cliched in The Golden Age. It seems those hoping for the grand return of the first superheroine will have to wait a while longer for a book worthy of The Queen Of The Jungle.