Review: Swords of Sorrow Red Sonja/Jungle Girl #1 – A Visit to Coachella
Marguerite Bennett (writer), Mirka Andoifo (illustrator), Jay Anacleto (cover)
July 22, 2015
Our coverage of the huge Swords of Sorrow crossover event continues with the newest miniseries Red Sonja/Jungle Girl. Sarah Richardson and Laura Harcourt break it down by cover, story, characters, and art.
(Disclaimer: This contains spoilers and is based on an advanced review copy from Dynamite.)
Sarah Richardson: It’s okay, I guess? They’re both just kind of posing, instead of actually doing something related to the story. While I’m all, “Eeeeee! Tiny dinosaur!” I’m also a little confused as to what Red Sonja is actually doing. Is that water? Magical sparkly bits from traveling between realms? Is that a blissful experience? I’d guess so, judging from her expression. I’d totally buy Jungle Girl just hanging out, but her gaze is on the viewer and not the person who is either a) flinging water around like she’s in a softcore porn or b) appearing from fucking nowhere. Personally, I’d be looking at Red Sonja and possibly even reacting to her, but maybe life is different when you have tiny dinosaurs.
Laura H: I’m into Jungle Girl’s expression of mixed exasperation and suspicion. She’s thinking, “How the hell did I wind up in this Herbal Essences commercial?” Sonja, on the other hand, appears to have called down the Powers of Grayskull only to have them cross streams with Magical Girl Transformation bubbles. I’m not used to seeing Sonja looking blissed out and her weapons not at the ready, but as far as usability is concerned, I have to hand it to her sword and double-bladed axe over Jungle Girl’s … whatever that is. Spear? Primitive version of Darth Maul’s lightsaber? How do you use that thing? From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, the art is pretty: both of them look strong and comfortable, which is impressive considering their costumes cumulatively amount to about a square yard of animal-print fabric and chainmail; however, I too am here for the tiny dinosaur.
Continuing the overarching theme of the main Swords of Sorrow line, here Red Sonja travels from Barsoom (land of Dejah Thoris) into the tropical island of Jungle Girl.
Sarah R: So Red Sonja jumps to a new realm, her and Jungle Girl fight talk for a while, and then oh look, a bigger threat, let’s band together! It seemed like a very cursory, make-sure-every-i-is-dotted run through of introducing the two characters to each other. I’d almost prefer a flashback of like one page, so that we could get on with it, you know? Give me something interesting or unexpected!
Laura H: Overall, I hoped for more from this issue. It felt a little like the creative team was trying to lighten up the story and situation a little too much. There’s a long exposition dump immediately after a fight that felt like it ought to have been more fraught with peril—I would expect a duel between these two to go on for far longer than two pages. I agree with Sarah. This issue felt as though it was ticking off boxes: set up Sonja’s arrival, introduce Jungle Girl, offer exposition, set up next conflict, done.
The focus here is on Red Sonja, sword wielding She-Devil of the Hyrkanian Steppes, and Jana the Jungle Girl, protector of all who live on an island populated by a variety of creatures, including dinosaurs.
Sarah R: I do get that both women are attack-first, ask-questions-later kind of people, but I was hoping for a little more depth to their interactions. I love Red Sonja, and yet I was pretty indifferent to everything going on here.
Laura H: I don’t know Jungle Girl as a character all that well. Is she supposed to be a bit, well, ditzy? She comes across in the book as far more naive than I would have guessed from the cover. Her ignorance is used as a punchline (“Joke’s on you—I don’t know what that word means!”) She stares in bewilderment at Red Sonja’s hand when it’s offered to shake (sidenote: Red Sonja shakes hands?), is bemused by the idea of portals, and then wanders off to make a flower crown, apparently because she and Sonja are heading to Coachella next. (Actually, I would love to see that. Someone please write me Jungle Girl and Red Sonja taking over festival season.)
Also, I was surprised at Sonja’s flat delivery of “lands where people abide by … stab first, ask questions later.” Traditionally, I feel that particular approach has been right up Red Sonja’s alley (and later, she agrees with using it as a tactic, so…).
The running joke of being able to quip also felt a bit out of place to me. From my experience with Sonja, she tends to keep her mouth shut during battle or simply deadpan the obvious. She has never seemed a particularly quippy character to me.
Sarah R: I don’t know Jungle Girl well either, and yeah, my brain just slotted her behavior into the stereotypes you always get with jungle-barbarian characters. I’ve never gotten why being super good at tracking seems to kill the witty part of your brain. And while Gail Simone’s Red Sonja is smart and says some really cutting or hilarious things, yeah, no quips.
Sarah R: Ugh. Why do they look like kids?
[pullquote]Hey, Jana, care to share your tips and tricks for maintaining a shiny, sleek mane even in a humid and treacherous primeval hell-jungle…[/pullquote]Laura H: Hey, Jana, care to share your tips and tricks for maintaining a shiny, sleek mane even in a humid and treacherous primeval hell-jungle, thousand of miles (and years) from the closest anti-frizz serum? How do you and Sonja both have perfect eyeliner and lashes? There’s something about this art that, to me, recalls MAD Magazine parodies. Something about the lines and the exaggeration of their figures is very cartoon-y. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there were times when I felt it didn’t quite convey the stakes at hand.
Sarah R: It definitely didn’t match the characters or the storyline. It felt more Fern Gully with a side of sexy than “We are dangerous warrior women.” And that was one well-kept primeval hell-jungle, so maybe everything in Jungle Girl’s world is just shiny and perfectly in place? And it’s a shame, because Hel also deserves better than cartoon-y art. She’s the incarnation of Death itself, but she ended up looking more Juggalo-ish here and less metal death goddess. I could barely make out her crotch skull, it was so tiny and poorly defined, while she was riding that admittedly bad-ass looking death worm dragon thing. Some of the energy from the worm should have been channeled into her crotch skull. She wants people to worship her, and she wants to rule, so the teen goth look is pretty off base here.