Friday, 19 August 2016

#CBR8 Book 84: "Red Sonja, vol 1: Queen of Plagues" by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani

Page count: 160 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Red Sonja, the legendary She-Devil with a Sword, returns to Corinthia, to repay the blood-debt she owes to its ruler. Facing a battle against impossible odds, Sonja nonetheless agrees to lead what remains of Corinthia's fighting forces against its enemies, and comes face to face with Dark Annisia, a woman from her past. Having to face crushing defeat on the battlefield, unable to keep her promises to a man who once saved her life, Sonja is exiled and doomed to die. Always a fighter, even the plague cannot stop Red Sonja, who returns from the wilderness to wreak her vengeance.

Red Sonja, created by Robert E. Howard in the 1930s, is pretty much the archetypal barbarian warrior woman now. Known for her mane of red hair, her chainmail bikini and her prowess on the battlefield, Red Sonja has been a pulp heroine in books, a really bad movie and several comic books. In this, Gail Simone's reboot of the character, we get her origin story, several blood-soaked battles and more than enough sword and sorcery. Simone's Sonja is a cranky loner with a serious drinking habit, who despite her ridiculous fashion choices is able to take down seasoned warriors with ease. The book balances several dark storylines with a fair amount of comic relief and while Sonja's costume may be exploitative, this is a feminist comic book with a lot of themes of female empowerment throughout.

The book is fun enough, and the art is absolutely gorgeous, but I never really emotionally connected with the characters and even when the story was at its darkest and tensest, I wasn't all that bothered with how things were going to play out. Of the many Gail Simone comics I have read, this was one of the more forgettable. Maybe pulpy sword and sorcery wasn't exactly what I wanted at the specific time I read it? Who knows? If my budget allows, I may keep reading it, but it's not going to be lower down on my list of comics purchases in the future.

Judging a book by its cover: All the covers in the trade are done by Jenny Frison, who strikes an interesting balance between functional and exploitative. While she is wearing her trademark chainmail bikini (seriously, the chafing, why would you choose to fight in this?), she is also portrayed as decisive, strong and capable. On the red cross-piece, the readers get a glimpse of the two principal female characters in the book in a more action-packed part of the story.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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