Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Release Date: 17/02/16
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
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It’s such a disappointment
The art doesn’t flow
Inconsistency is the quickest way to alienate an audience; this issue falls apart on all counts that made the first entry so appealing. After promising to take the character in a brand new direction, and starting to deliver on that promise, Bennett falls into the same old tired tropes that you’d come to expect from stories in the fantasy genre and beyond. Given how highly I regarded Aneke’s art, it’s astounding how a shift in narrative and a more demanding action scene can demonstrate the weaknesses of a style.
Red Sonja is a character that’s always going to find herself in the middle of a confrontation, making a clear portrayal a crucial skill for any attached artist. The opening sequence is a confrontation between the She-Devil and a few soldiers from the royal armed forces and, frankly, it’s unreadable. If you’re able to extract any information from it beyond vague descriptive words, then you’re a better person than me. You jump from panel to panel without any connective tissue and it creates a sequence where you reach the end and all you can think is “I think Sonja won”.
In general, the two-page spreads are gratuitously overused and seem to miss the point of what they’re most effective at: they provide perspective to an establishing shot or allow a broader look at a complicated scene. Here, there are used in place of what would usually be a regular sequence, leaving you wondering if the lack of a concrete narrative forced it to be spread thinly, or it’s simply a baffling creative choice. There are unbelievably five double spreads in one issue that are either covered in details that don’t add anything substantial to the book or leave far too much of the page untouched and wasted. Analysing the layouts to any substantial degree causes them to instantly fall apart into nonsensical storytelling.
The plot components that felt so fresh in the introductory issue are nowhere to be found, instead throwing lamely justified new plot elements and characters immediately into the foreground. Bennett is a talented writer and she’s usually far better at conveying her message with a modicum of subtlety. What should be an important message about the volatility and danger of public opinion is brought to the reader’s attention through the use of a play filled with propaganda for the new king’s regime. However, instead of letting the content speak for itself, Bennett takes the time to explicitly spell it out for anybody who missed her metaphor, rendering its effectiveness moot.
Over the course of her unexplained encounter with this theatrical performance, Sonja acquires a stowaway in the form of one of the members of the cast. Why this lead actress accompanies the legendary warrior straight into the heart of the kingdom is anyone’s guess; a consistent flow doesn’t appear to be high up the list of the priorities of this creative team. There are so many decisions and character choices over the course of this issue that are baffling and it’s almost impossible to recognise the titular character that you’ve come to know and adore.
One of the reasons that my eye has been particularly unforgiving has been caused in part by the drastic step down in quality in between issues. However, there are definitely redeemable parts of this book, such as the creative decision to subvert the gender expectations for the war general as well as continuing to bring in a certain level of explicit queerness for its cast, but good intentions don’t justify an unsatisfying read. Critical action sequences fall apart and a complete lack of narrative substance will leave you confued as to what you actually just put down. If you’re debating jumping in to this character, I’d wait. Give these creators time to settle into this cast and this world before you spend your moment on something that isn’t quite worth your time yet.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10
|Written by Mark Dickson|