Comics

Review Red Sonja #100: Female Brains Destroy Men!

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Red Sonja #100, Robert Hack variant calls back to Red Sonja’s pulpy roots.

Red Sonja #100

Dave Acosta, Pablo Marcus, Taki Soma, Noah Salonga, Sergio Fernandez Davila (a)
Eric Trautman, Roy Thomas, Michael Avon Oeming, Gail Simone, Luke Lieberman
Dynamite
February 2015

Dynamite is going big this year in celebration of Red Sonja’s decade with them. And who wouldn’t want to celebrate the She-Devil with a Sword? She’s long been a fan favorite for obvious reasons, and while the chainmail bikini and cheesecake poses have not always been welcomed, the character’s ferocity and independence is thoroughly appealing. For the 100th issue, Dynamite released a special issue featuring five writers and artists familiar with Red Sonja: Eric Trautman teams with Dave Acosta, Roy Thomas with Pablo Marcus, Michael Avon Oeming with Taki Soma, Gail Simone with Noah Salonga, and Luke Lieberman with Sergio Fernandez Davila. I think the issue is well-worth the $7.99 price, and let me tell you why.

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“The Snare” by Eric Trautman and drawn by Dave Acosta

Each of the five stories is set within the Red Sonja-verse, but not interrelated. About the only thing holding them together is the writer’s familiarity with the character.

The first story is Eric Trautman’s “The Snare” where Red Sonja faces off against treacherous spider women. Always the spider women! (See Movies That Shaped Me: Red Sonja.) The story is somewhat trite though nicely laden with mythology, but more importantly, Acosta draws Red Sonja dynamically. She moves. She looks haggard and scarred. She also wears a (slightly) more realistic outfit for a blizzard…

Roy Thomas is in fine form with his story “Tresses.” There’s monstrous female brains destroying would-be suitors in this pulpy spin on the Rapunzel fairytale. Marcos’s Red Sonja is buff even resembling a 1980s female bodybuilder at certain points which is an enjoyable contrast to the curvaceous and buxom Red Sonja often depicted in the older, pulpier comics. This story gets 5 out of 5 for just being a hell of a good time.

Michael Avon Oeming’s “Sticks & Stones” left me cold. Anytime a writer tries to justify the chainmail bikini as more than a sexual ploy, I am immediately over it. Let’s call a spade, a spade, okay?

The final two stories are unique in their character-driven approach. While I am already familiar with Simone’s take on the she-devil, I found Lieberman’s story as equally enjoyable as I have found Simone’s.

In Simone’s “The Torch,” Red Sonja meets up with another legendary female warrior, one who inspired her. It leads them both to reflect on the warrior life they chose over a more traditional life, without disparaging either choice. Solanga drew Red Sonja in Simone’s #0 issue. When I read #0, I was not too keen on his artwork, but I found it growing on me in this particular story. Solanga’s battle scenes remind me of Greek urns–they aren’t dynamic, but more frozen, media res. It’s fitting for the epicness of the sword and sorcery genre. Red Sonja is increasingly less solitary in Simone’s writing. She forms relationships, romantic and not, with a variety of individuals–it really challenges the lone wolf ideology that runs throughout the sword and sorcery genre which also leads me to Lieberman’s “Three Wishes.”

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Red Sonja #100, Ken Haeser’s fun and goofy variant cover. There’s a freaking unicorn!

“Three Wishes” may be one of my favorite Red Sonja stories. It’s a gallivanting, yet thoughtful Red Sonja. One who is always questioning power: who has it and who can be trusted with it (and usually she decides no one). But this Red Sonja also enjoys a nice vintage and wants to steer her own pirate ship (my kinda woman!). But we also get an emotionally complex and resilient Red Sonja. The art is okay. She looks older which I appreciate, but please stop drawing Red Sonja with earrings. Geez.

All in all, while the price tag is a bit high, I found Thomas’, Simone’s, and Lieberman’s stories to be worth it with the other two respectable enough. Simone and Lieberman give Red Sonja character complexity, and Thomas’ is an unabashedly pulpy romp. Two takes I equally appreciate when it comes to my Red Sonja.