02 May 2005

Review: Red Sonja #0

Damn Kurt Busiek and his unexpectedly enjoyable revitalization of Conan! If not for him, I wouldn't have taken a chance on Red Sonja, a comic book I was pretty sure I wouldn't like from the minute I first saw its Greg Land cover. The easy thing would be to simply say you get what you pay for and move on, but I like to do things the hard way and will figure how to belabor the obvious in as interesting a manner as possible.

Cheesecake aside -- and this comic is pure cheesecake with a faux-gritty graham cracker frosting -- there's really not much "here" to work with. Whereas Conan #0 hooked me with Busiek's well-written and intriguing [re-]introduction to the infamous barbarian, throwing in three pages of sketches and an engaging interview with artist Cary Nord, Dynamite goes the cheap route, offering nothing more than an over-written, under-developed interlude that tells little about Sonja beyond showing that she's a skilled fighter with a great body. Emphasis on the latter as Mel Rubi delivers the fan service with appreciative angles and multiple close-ups of her breasts and posterior, aka T&A, that leads one character to comment as she checks her out:

"You're a strong woman. You fear no man..." [Breast shot.]

"You're a warrior.." [Crotch shot.]

"Here, have some bread -- a gift!" [Close-up of Sonja holding loaf of bread to her slightly parted lips, followed by one of her seemingly deep-throating it.]
WTF, Mel?!?!

The story, such that it is, begins with Sonja walking through a rain-drenched village where a threat seems to lurk in every corner, held at bay only by a knowing glance. It is told awkwardly by Jessa, a bartender with a taste for flowery narration who is made to set Sonja up, slipping a roofie into her drink so that an unidentified group of men who have been stalking her can take her out easily. They make their move after she passes out drunk, only to be surprised when she leaps up ready to fight when the arrows start flying towards her. For some reason, though, she waits until after her sword and dagger are lifted from her seemingly unconscious person, leaving her with nothing but a splintered table and some Steven Seagal moves to take them all down with, which of course she does, and with nary a single unnecessary close-up of either of the two parts of her body that are covered in chainmail. Leaving only one witness alive to tell the tale, her legend presumably grows.

If Jessa were narrating this review, she'd probably describe the divide between this version of Red Sonja and Busiek's Conan something like this: "There was a great mountain with a shallow river at its base. The mountain kissed the sky, and even on the cloudiest of days, it called out to us, challenging us to scale its height. The river below, while suitable for bathing, was unable to quench our thirsts when we returned."

More simply put, you do get what you pay for, and $0.25 doesn't get you much of anything these days. In this case, it isn't getting me to stick around for the next issue.

Red Sonja #0, (Dynamite Entertainment, April 2005; $0.25); Written by Michael Avon Oeming and Mike Carey, Art by Mel Rubi.

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