Taking Another Stab – A Review of Red Sonja: The Black Tower #1

Cover: Amanda Conner, Dynamite, 2014, Red Sonja: The Black Tower #1

Red Sonja: The Black Tower #1 — today’s seco0d look!

Frank Tieri (w)
Cezar Razek (a)

Based on the success of Gail Simone’s Red Sonja, Dynamite decided to take a stab (har!) with another Red Sonja titlethis time a mystery written by Frank Tieri (Deadpool, Wolverine). This series, The Black Tower, is premised on the death of many people, including Red Sonja.

Our red-headed heroine decides to a break from her usual shenanigans and slayage and stop in the town of Lur, usually a safe resting place for overworked badasses such as herself. However, when she arrives, she discovers the Black Towera tower that has appeared out of thin air. Nobody knows where it came from, but it amplifies the fear of the town’s inhabitants and turns them against one another.

Tieri introduces us to Fengar Tolt and his gang, barbarian villains who are never one to miss an opportunity for fear-mongering and havoc-wreaking. After murdering what appears to be a nobleman of some sort (I am assuming, since the victim is wearing a rather modest crown), Fengar and his gang attempt to rape the nobleman’s wife. Fortunately, our heroine steps in before we are shown a gratuitous rape scene. Though, the panels depict some dress-rippage and the noblewoman being pinned down so tread carefully, dear reader.

Fengar claims that the people of Lur are the cause of the Black Tower, which could only be caused by wizards or demons. . . hence the people of Lur must be demons. (In debate, we call this a syllogistic fallacy, but methinks Fengar is none too keen on logic.) Fengar insists Red Sonja should join him in the carnage or step aside. He then emphasizes his point by poking Red Sonja in her ample bosom. Well, unsurprisingly, the She-Devil with a Sword ain’t having itshe lops off his intrusive finger. A brawl ensues, and Fengar is castrated by Red Sonja.

Post-castration, one of Fengar’s gang members, Bilas Mar (a woman rocking a sort of cavewoman, deep v-neck swimsuit) steps in. Red Sonja easily takes the woman down. However, the opportunistic Bilas Mar finds the crown of the noblewoman that Fengar and his gang attempted to rape earlier and places it atop her own head. Bilas Mar then sings the praises of the tower. Apparently, the people of Lur do not object to this action (and I say apparently because it is not clear that they care either way). Red Sonja, disgusted with the sheep-like people of Lur, throws her hands up, hops on her horse, and heads out as the mysterious Black Tower looms ominously in the background.

I always find the premise of a comic book character’s death (especially when an entire mini-series is centered on it) laughable, because anyone familiar with the genre knows nobody really dies in comic books. However, Tieri was aiming for a mystery, and he achieved it. I am intrigued to find out what the Black Tower is all about. Misogynistic language (calling women “demon bitches” and “sluts”) gets thrown around, but Red Sonja is there to call people on it while showing them her sword and/or fist. This is what she does. Red Sonja is an archetypal example of a feminist character using “the master’s tools to tear down the master’s house.”

Considering this, I am also interested in seeing how the action with Bilas Mar gets played out. Red Sonja is no stranger to battling female villains, but I do hope if she goes up against Bilas Mar that Bilas Mar proves to be an interesting villain. Hey-hey, comic book creators, we want interesting female heroes and villains!

As for the artwork, the covers for this issues are done by Amanda Conner. While I dig Conner’s work on Harley Quinn, I find the more cartoony style that befits Harley so well less fitting for Red Sonja. That and the fact that her bikini bottom/”armor” is looking . . . well . . . jock-strappish.

On the inside, I like Red Sonja’s face. I know, you’re probably wondering “who looks at her face?!” As a longtime Red Sonja fan and a feminist, I pay very close attention to Red Sonja’s representation. How is her body drawn, how is the infamous chainmail bikini depicted, how is her face drawn, and how is her body drawn in action shots? Razek draws the face of an adult womanlonger, leaner, skeptical, pissed-off. Sometimes, Red Sonja is drawn with a more Lolita-esque face, the kind you see in Catholic school-“girl” porn — bee-sting lips, lascivious eyes and smokey eyeshadow (seriously?!), and a round or heart-shaped face intending to denote a certain amount of subservience. Red Sonja is a grownass woman and a warrior to boot. Do her breasts look like they might hold her afloat in times of flood, well yes, but that is to be expected with Red Sonja.

They kept calling her Sonja the Red, though, which annoyed the crap out of me.

3 out of 5

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik