Sunday, August 18, 2013

Issue Review: Red Sonja 2

As an army invades Corinthia, Sonja stands alone against the charge of her greatest friend and enemy, Dark Annisia.  The two duel each other, while the armies around them clash.  Sonja and Annisia were the only survivors of the arena in which they were slaves, and neither really wants to kill the other.  Each inflicts wounds, but they can't bring themselves to issue the killing stroke.  Annisia claims she can see all those who died before them in the arena -- she says they haunt her.  Sonja thinks Annisia has gone mad with guilt.  But as they speak, King Dimath tries to ride Annisia down, and she throws a dagger into his throat.  Sonja rises up, preparing to kill Annisia, but then Annisia reveals that Sonja has the plague.  Annsia kisses Sonja after telling her this, and then offers to let the city die a slow death, as long as they build a wall around it and no one comes out.  And as long as Sonja goes off to the frozen northland to die.  Sonja agrees, giving up her sword, and heads off into the mountains for her final days with the plague.

This is another gripping and well-written story by Gail Simone.  Her dialogue is excellent, and the pain that Annisia feels over all the deaths she and Sonja caused in the arena is palpable.  Whether she is truly insane, or has some vision that enables her to "see dead people" is unclear, and probably wont' be answered until future issues.  The flash-back to the arena comes in exactly the right spot, enhancing rather than interrupting the story.  The charge of Dimath and his people as they come to Sonja's aid is also perfectly timed, like a classic cavalry charge from an old western. You can almost hear the bugles blaring.

On the other hand, although I'm sure people will be talking about "the kiss" for months because it's a lip-lock between two women, my concern with it is that I don't really understand the "plague logic" following this kiss.  Annisia claims that Sonja has the plague. There is nothing in the story to indicate that her "ghost vision" told her this, so we must assume that she is intuiting Sonja's sickness from the fact that Sonja spent time in the proximity of disease carriers.  If, as we must conclude, poximity = risk of infection, then didnt' Annisia risk getting the plague herself with the kiss? How does she know that she is not now infected?  This part of the story is confusing and requires explanation -- not because of the girls kissing each other, but because the mechanism of plague transmission has not been described to the reader.

Another element of this story that bears further explanation is why, after Annisia told Sonja she had the plague, the red one believed her.  Does Sonja feel ill all of a sudden? Has she been dizzy and feverish all along but in denial?  Or does she know that Annisia has some kind of perception that allows her to see sickness in people?  Why would Sonja simply accept Annisia's statement without further evidence? Or is there evidence about which we have not been told?

Also, I question the wisdom of putting Sonja into a situation where she seems to be dying on the second issue of a new series.  We know that Dynamite is willing to let writers kill Sonja (it happened on issue 29 of the previous series), but the idea that Gail would kill this character off in the very first story arc of a new ongoing series is just silly, so we know that's not going to happen. Thus, I think a "Sonja is dying" story is too early here, and would have worked better a couple of years from now, when we might believe she could actually die.

The art in this issue was good, but not great.  I'm not a huge fan of the way Geovani draws the links in Sonja's armor.  Previous artists (and those who do the covers) depict the armor as straight scale mail.  The way Geovani draws it, the armor looks like silver coins held together by toothpicks.  I think the scale mail looks better, not to mention more realistic (if one can use that word to describe any version of Sonja's armor).  Also, some of the action sequences are very awkward-looking. On the other hand, the quieter moments look great, and "the kiss" is drawn very well. I particularly like the look on Sonja's face in that moment.

Overall, this was a good issue, with a story that is paced well and interesting to read, but also raises some logic/continuity questions.  These questions are not impossible for Gail to answer satisfactorily, but they definitely do require some exposition in the next couple of issues.  Otherwise, the story runs the risk of being contrived.  However, those logic questions aside, we have an excellent character study of both Sonja and Annisia here, and I absolutely loved the fact that Sonja gave up her sword (which is the most important item she owns, at least to her) to save the village. This is classic Sonja behavior -- risking everything about herself to save others.  I've often thought of Sonja as the world's first super-heroine (not in print, but in terms of the era when she lives), and she definitely lives up to that role in Gail Simone's hands.

My score: 8/10

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