Friday, August 12, 2016

I saw Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues...

As far as motion-comic presentations go, Shout! Factory's "Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues" is a peculiar one. The style of this Gail "Birds of Prey" Simone epic is unlike other motion comics, such as "Watchmen", "Killing Joke" or the various disjointed Marvel samplings that have surfaced over the years. This one is almost pure animation, except that Walter "Witchblade" Geovani's artwork flows at a surreal, sluggish pace: panels devoid of borders or caption balloons; but faithful to the original source in both an admirable and yet ponderous manner. In other words, traditional animation done in Geovani's style would have been a wiser choice in this instance. 

Regardless, "Queen of Plagues" is a rambunctious (and at times, quite austere) adventure, pitting the She-Devil with a Sword against a spiritual sister: the relentless and misguided Dark Annisia. Both women once fought in the arena. Both became friends, or so it seemed, but with the passing of time, they've ended up on opposite ends. 

Dark Annisia has sallied forth to purge villages of the plague, even slaughtering children throughout her mad crusade, while conversing with hideous spirits that others cannot hear or see; and dear Red Sonja is led to believe that she, too, is infected by whatever the hell is spreading across the land; forced into exile (marked by an ominous tell-tale bird upon her comely face) and accompanied by her youthful but supportive companions, Alya and Nias.

Through Red Sonja's ordeal, there's much reflection, most catering to her relationship with Annisia and an ill-fated alliance with a king, who she learns was assassinated. (Additionally, the king's disenchanted, alchemist son figures in, yearning to avenge his father's death.) The story also presents the heroine's development from an early age and the injustice forced upon her, making Simone's tale a tense and fierce reboot of the legend: an otherworldly "I Spit on Your Grave", one might say. 

The dialogue is excellent, using the vernacular at times, but otherwise credible for its classic setting. The voice actors (with sexy Misty Lee in the lead) do a marvelous job bringing the principals to life, and of course, Geovani's designs (whether flowing slowly or paused) are wonders to behold. 

With some retellings, there's the tendency to get too cute and clever along the way (a kind of reinventing of the wheel, if you will), so that the characters and their tales lose the spirit that once distinguished them. "Queen of Plagues" doesn't fall victim to that. It recaptures the best of Marvel's Robert E. Howard modifications and embodies the best elements of any given David C. Smith/Richard Tierney early '80s novel. Those-in-the-know will be pleased. 

On another admirable note, "Queen of Plagues" (whether in the Dynamite Entertainment printed form or the disc version) makes no apologies for its realistic and emotional depiction of revenge, and therefore well reflects the spectrum of the human condition. It boldly defines right from wrong, when to fight and when to set down one's sword: all practical tactics to live by, even if presented within fantastic trimming. 

Whether one be young or old, male or female, there's a lot to enjoy and ruminate upon with this entry: a powerful piece of storytelling of a make-believe age gone-by that's as relevant as any modern-life essay. 

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