Comic Review: Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion

Published: February 29th, 2012
Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Jose Malaga

Dynamite Entertainment, 135 Pages

Review:

It’s been a little while since I’ve read a Vampirella comic and this one has been in my Comixology queue for quite some time. In fact, it was the oldest title in my queue, so I figured I’d give it a read.

For the most part, this was kind of cool and I liked the whole mythos surrounding The Scarlet Legion and their ties to Vampirella. This also added in some Aztec mysticism, as Vampirella is essentially elevated as a god to the tribe she encounters in the story.

The plot itself is just okay. It’s got a few twists and surprises but a lot of this feels cookie cutter.

And while I mostly like the art, it lacks energy. The character designs and illustrations are pretty solid but nothing feels very dynamic. The colors are decent but a bit wonky at times, as well.

Overall, this is okay but there are better Vampirella stories out there.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella comics from her Dynamite era.

Comic Review: The Adventures of Red Sonja, Vol. 1

Published: September 6th, 2007
Written by: Roy Thomas, various
Art by: Dick Giordano, Frank Thorne, various
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 137 Pages

Review:

This collects Red Sonja’s first solo stories, which appeared in Marvel Feature before she’d go on to have her own self-titled comic book.

Overall, this is great. I’ve never read these stories and it was nice filling in the blanks between her first appearance in the pages of Conan the Barbarian and the first Red Sonja title. Plus, this also brings her and Conan back together and throws in Bêlit, who has become one of my favorite Conan companions.

Conan and Bêlit don’t come in until the last two chapters of this collection and unfortunately, that story ends on a cliffhanger without the finale in this volume. But it’s still cool seeing them together, as well as seeing Bêlit’s first impression of Sonja.

This is quintessential ’70s Marvel sword and sorcery without Conan as the focal point and it’s just a really cool, energetic read with incredible art and great stories by Roy Thomas, as well as others. It also includes some adaptations of Robert E. Howard’s original literary work.

For fans of ’70s Marvel, sword and sorcery, general fantasy, great writing, great art or all of the above, this should definitely be a pleasing experience.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel era Red Sonja comics, as well as other crossovers with Conan.

Comic Review: Spider-Man/Red Sonja

Published: 2007
Written by: Michael Avon Oeming
Art by: Mel Rubi, Michael Turner (covers)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted to like this but it left me mostly, underwhelmed and baffled.

A long time ago, back when Marvel had the full-time publishing rights to Red Sonja, they did a one-off story about Mary Jane being possessed by Sonja and then had her team-up with her boyfriend, Spider-Man.

This longer, five-part miniseries is just a rehash of that story, as opposed to having Spidey actually team-up with the real Sonja in the flesh.

Still, it’s not the worst idea for bringing these characters together but doing it a second time seems lazy and uninspiring. But then, so does the rest of this story.

Red Sonja’s villain Kulan Gath shows up in modern day New York City to create havoc because that’s what villains do. He then uses Venom to try and take out Sonja and Spidey but ultimately, he steals the Venom symbiote for himself because this story is already cookie cutter as shit and aiming low seems to be what they were going for.

We also get suped up magical versions of well-known Spidey villains because why wouldn’t we?

I don’t know, more often than not, crossovers like this are really bad and half-assed schlock made to grab a buck from multiple fan bases. I guess this one didn’t strive to be anything different.

I mostly liked the interior art though and the covers were solid.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja crossovers or stories that put her in modern times.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 6: Heavy Is the Crown

Published: April 30th, 2014
Written by: Luke Lieberman
Art by: Milton Estevam
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 248 Pages

Review:

This is it! The grand finale of the Queen Sonja series and also, the beefiest volume of the lot.

This probably should have been broken out into two volumes though, as it covers two different main story arcs.

However, out of the volumes written by Luke Lieberman in the Queen Sonja series, this is my favorite of the lot. Although, I don’t like it as much as the volumes written by Arvid Nelson, because those seemed to have more energy and were just more exciting, overall. Granted, he had the benefit of using Thulsa Doom in one of his stories.

This brings everything to a close though, as events happen to bring peace throughout the larger empire. There are those that don’t want to unify under Sonja’s rule and that is the main focus of the larger story here. However, Sonja also steps down as Queen/Emperor after leaving multiple kingdoms in what she feels is, the right hands.

Ultimately, this brings the story full circle, ends on a fairly high note and also brings Sonja back to where she started, as a nomadic warrior fighting for truth, justice and the Hyrkanian way.

The Queen Sonja series was pretty enjoyable from start to finish, as even the lowest points were still engaging and helped propel the story forward. I feel as if it may have been cut short due to Dynamite feeling a need to do a soft reboot once they brought in Gail Simone to write the character, which immediately followed this series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 5: Ascendancy

Published: April 10th, 2013
Written by: Luke Lieberman
Art by: Fritz Casas
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 139 Pages

Review:

After coming off of the really satisfying previous volume, this one is a bit of a step down. But, as I’ve said in my reviews of the previous installments of Queen Sonja, the creative team keeps changing from book-to-book and that’s usually not a good way to maintain quality, plot coherence and momentum.

Luke Lieberman returns to write this one and I feel like he just steps in when another writer couldn’t be locked down and the publisher didn’t want to go on hiatus.

Overall, I’ve liked this series and its highpoints have been really good. But it is very topsy turvy and incredibly inconsistent. While Lieberman understands the character, as his family owns the trademark, his writing style tends to move slower. While that’s fine, the installments of Queen Sonja that he didn’t write, move at a brisker pace.

I did like this story but it lacked the feeling of scale that the previous story did, which featured Thulsa Doom and a supernatural beast that was posing as the god Set.

This story involves throne politics, which is the focal point of most of this series. It shows Sonja deal with new challenges and trying to balance them with those who want to usurp her. By this point, however, it’s getting somewhat repetitive.

There is only one volume left in the Queen Sonja series, so I am looking forward to reading it. Plus, it’s the beefiest book of the lot.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 4: Son of Set

Published: October 3rd, 2012
Written by: Arvid Nelson
Art by: Edgar Salazar
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 140 Pages

Review:

Where the previous installment of the Queen Sonja series felt kind of light and was more of a prequel/Year One type of tale, this moves the story forward in a great way and also serves as a sequel to Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom, as Doom is resurrected by an ancient force claiming to be the god Set.

All the Thulsa stuff here is pretty great for fans of the character. Also, everything with Set has very strong Lovecraftian vibes and it draws comparisons to the old Robert E. Howard stories that kind of tied to Lovecraft’s mythos, as the two writers were very close friends and it’s been said that it’s possible that the original Conan, Kull and Red Sonya stories happen in the same universe as Lovecraft’s.

The story was the second strongest of the Queen Sonja series thus far, following the second volume. I liked the action, the stakes and how Sonja overcame adversity and was able to further develop into a real leader, able to rally her kingdom behind her, even when it’s all in complete disarray.

My only complaint about the story is that the faux Set and Thulsa Doom sort of have their own battle and we didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing Sonja really fight either of them. But the ending, regardless of that payoff, was still good and it makes sense for the story. I just wanted to see Sonja and Doom get into a physical confrontation once again.

Overall, this was some good shit, especially for fans of Howard lore, Lovecraftian lore and simple yet badass sword and sorcery tales.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 3: Coming of Age

Published: May 30th, 2012
Written by: Luke Lieberman
Art by: Mel Rubi
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 117 Pages

Review:

I really dug the hell out of the previous volume in the Queen Sonja saga, so naturally, I wanted to keep moving forward in the series.

This chapter didn’t quite hit the mark for me but it was still enjoyable.

The main reason, is that this was more of an origin story told in flashback and I didn’t feel like it progressed the larger Queen Sonja arc forward.

Also, being that it is kind of like a Year One type of tale, it could’ve existed as its own miniseries, as opposed to being wedged into a regular, ongoing series.

Looking at it on its own, it is a good, energetic tale with lots of action and insight into how Sonja developed into the women she would become, a future warrior queen.

Luke Lieberman knows the character well but he should, as his family owns the Red Sonja brand. Regardless of nepotism or what have you, he’s one of the best Red Sonja writers since the classic Roy Thomas era. As he continues on in this series beyond this story, it motivates me to read the other volumes.

I don’t mean for my words to sound harsh, I liked this, it just felt like a roadblock. Or more like a side quest in an RPG game that takes you away from the main story.

That’s fine but this may have been better off being a companion miniseries, published alongside the Queen Sonja title.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 2

Published: July 6th, 2011
Written by: Arvid Nelson
Art by: Jackson Herbert
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 140 Pages

Review:

This volume in the Queen Sonja saga was a huge step up from the first one.

By the start of this, she is already queen and she’s been ruling for a bit.

The bulk of the story revolves around a young man, very similar looking to Conan or Kalidor from the Red Sonja movie, but if he were younger and not as buff as Schwarzenegger. This character also has a little sister and a demon possessed sword that bites off the fingers of others who try to use it.

Sonja and the young man are at odds with each other, due to a history between their peoples. However, she soon takes the man and his sister in and shortly after, starts to fall for the guy romantically.

There is more to the man than what is apparent at first and everything is tied to his demon sword and to his backstory, which saw his mother sleep with a demon beast to help her family survive after the death of her husband.

The story is fast paced, well written with likable characters and a romantic angle that is believable for the Sonja character. She struggles with her emotions, a defeat and has to learn how to balance all that with being a monarch to a kingdom that has some major issues and cultural biases.

The art is pretty good and I found it to be better than the first volume as well.

In the end, I enjoyed this Red Sonja tale a lot and it makes me look forward to the third volume, which I should read and review in the near future.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Vampirella: NuBlood – One-Shot

Published: February 27th, 2013
Written by: Mark Rahner
Art by: Cezar Razek

Dynamite Entertainment, 37 Pages

Review:

This one-shot Vampirella comic basically takes the concept of the TV series True Blood: introducing the world of Vampi to synthetic blood that is commercially produced in an effort to get vampires to drink that instead of people.

Beyond that, this is a total True Blood parody, as within the first few moments, you see Vampirella working in a bar full of characters that closely resemble the bar and characters from the HBO show. And it all takes place in a rural Louisiana town that is overrun with supernatural weirdness.

So I guess this is an unofficial Vampirella and True Blood spinoff? Maybe the license for True Blood was too expensive but this comes so damn close to the source material I’m amazed that it didn’t run into some legal issues, parody or not.

There is a twist here though, as some of the characters you will recognize from that TV show end up being shitheads and not the versions of the characters you’re familiar with.

In any event, this could have been somewhat cool, as a longer story with more room to breathe but its all wedged into a single issue that then has to make room for an additional story that’s tacked on at the end. And that extra story was completely forgettable.

Overall, I felt like this was a waste of time and it just made me want to see what would actually happen if Dynamite actually were able to crossover Vampirella and True Blood. Maybe, eventually, that can and will happen, as she’s been crossed over with every other property under the sun.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella comics from the Dynamite era.

Book Review: ‘The Art of Vampirella – The Dynamite Years’ by Various

Like all the other large format art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment, this one if full of spectacular pieces from my favorite artistic medium: comic books.

Plus, it also features one of my favorite indie comics characters of all-time: Vampirella.

While the Warren Years Vampirella art book blew my f’n mind, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great book to own for fans of the character and comic art. However, I’m a much bigger fan of the ’60s and ’70s classical art style of the other book. That era was full of work by great fantasy painters from Spain and Italy and it had a totally different vibe.

This collection features modern comic book art. I do like most of it but it doesn’t blow my socks off like the old school stuff.

If these are the sort of books you like to collect, this one shouldn’t disappoint. The art styles have changed over the decades since the original Vampirella stories but there are still great pieces to enjoy here.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment that features the history of the characters they publish.