Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

11 July 2008

Adventures of Red Sonja, v. 2

Collects: Red Sonja #1-7 (1977)

Released: September 2006 (Dynamite Entertainment)

Format: 176 pages / color / $19.99 / ISBN: 9781933305127

Red Sonja should be a simple enough concept. A little skin, a little weird fantasy, a little peril, and a lot of action … Bam. Knock off early, do a little golfing (or drinking, depending on your predilections) in the afternoon, and watch the checks roll in. Better yet, get a hotshot artist who can draw monsters — Mike Mignola maybe — and you’re set for a decade.

But Marvel couldn’t quiet put that together for their Red Sonja series in the ‘70s. Despite the long-term success of Conan the Barbarian — the book Sonja was sput off — Sonja’s solo title ran only 15 issues after a short stint in Marvel Feature.

Adventures of Red Sonja, v. 2 cover Well, the first thing I noticed when reading The Adventures of Red Sonja, v. 2 was not a buxom warrior woman in a chain mail bikini. One would think that would not be possible, especially given most comic-book artists’ attempts to pioneer the art of making breasts 3-D objects through a combination of will and vivid imagination.

No, the first thing I noticed was the words.

In boxes, balloons, and bubbles. The pages are fairly choked with balloons describing what the art of Gary Thorne shows competently enough. It’s tempting to blame novice comics writer (and film editor / writer) Clair Noto for this. But Roy Thomas, who wrote Conan, was her editor and co-writer and should have known better. Then again, things get no better when Wendy Pini takes over for Noto on #6, ,so perhaps Thomas is totally to blame for the profusion of flowery prose that crowds out the art on every page.

The plots are good enough, I suppose, although none of them stand out. All of them are weird fantasy in garish colors, which should be enough for this series. Better plots might have saved the book, but I doubt it.

I’m not sure Throne is a good choice for the art. His Sonja seems too cartoony to be sexy and a little too wide-eyed and willowy to be a warrior. The latter may be a concession in an attempt to increase the cheesecake factor, but Thorne doesn’t come close to exploiting the possibilities, so I’m not sure what he was aiming at. Not that I endorse cheesecake or necessarily want it — but if you aren’t going to go that way, then why not give her some clothes? Or even some decent armor, for Erlik’s sake?

One positive: Thomas’s afterword, discussing the series’ genesis, is interesting, and unlike Dark Horse’s Chronicles of Conan, the original covers are included.

It’s not enough, of course. I won’t be looking for v. 1 or 3.

Rating: Marvel symbol Marvel symbol (1.5 of 5)

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