Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Red Sonja, Vol.1: Queen of Plagues

For all of the ballyhoo surrounding this latest iteration of RED SONJA (The she-devil with a sword finally gets a female writer!), does Gail Simone actually bring anything new to the table...?

 Sadly, the answer is no.

 Dynamite's RED SONJA, VOL. 1: QUEEN OF PLAGUES collects the first six issues of the Gail Simone/Walter Geovani relaunch, and it was pretty much what I expected, and not nearly what I had hoped.
Simone was a favorite of mine for a long time, especially her delightfully decadent run on DC's SECRET SIX. But as that series went on, the quality of the writing began to slip, until, by the final volume, I was actually glad to see the book go off into the sunset. Since then, I've shaken my head in disbelief at how bad Simone's run on DC's "New 52" BATGIRL has been, although I've mainly chalked that up to the legendary editorial interference that has been the hallmark of DC recently.

 So I was fairly excited to hear that Simone was going to be helming the relaunch of Dynamite's RED SONJA series, and I found it heartening to learn that she was (supposedly) a longtime fan of the character.

 While RED SONJA, VOL. 1: QUEEN OF PLAGUES is not an especially bad book, it wasn't at all engaging or different from the decades of Red Sonja tales that have preceded it. Simone's story of a kingdom under siege from an implacable enemy is one that every sword-and-sorcery fan worth his or her salt has seen a few hundred times, and Walter Geovani's art resembles the standard generic look of nearly every book that Dynamite publishes. I found his art to be ill-suited to the subject matter, although I did enjoy his take on Sonja herself. Simone, for all of the other faults of the book, writes a mean Sonja, and the book really shines only when the title character is front-and-center. (I was also left wondering why the villain of the piece has merman accomplices....that seemed an odd choice, and I found my OCD-plagued brain wondering just how this guy ever met these mermen, how he persuaded them to fight for him, and how they managed to survive for so long, not only on land, but in what appears to be a desert. None of this is ever explained...)

 On the plus side, Dynamite serves up their usual assortment of umpteen covers and variants, and some of them are amazingly beautiful, especially the regular covers, which are illustrated by Jenny Frison. Get Frison on the interior art, and you'd really have a book to be reckoned with. Other cover artists include Pia Guerra, Nicola Scott, Stephanie Buscema, Jill Thompson, Colleen Doran, and the mighty Amanda Conner. The book also includes a new foreword by Gail Simone, and her complete script for the first issue.

 Dynamite provided a review copy.