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.

Film Review: Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987)

Also known as: Deathstalker II (original title)
Release Date: September 12th, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Neil Ruttenberg, Jim Wynorski
Music by: Chuck Cirino
Cast: John Terlesky, Monique Gabrielle, John LaZar, Toni Naples, Maria Socas

Aries Films International, New Horizons Pictures, Concorde Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“You have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch the prince of thieves.” – Deathstalker, “It is early in the morning!” – Princess Evie

I’ve already reviewed the first and third Deathstalker movies because watching these in order doesn’t really matter. Each film seems to have its own tone, a totally different actor in the lead role and they’re mostly total crap.

However, this one is actually kind of enjoyable.

I think that this chapter is the most palatable because it is actually a lighthearted comedy mixed with sword and sorcery and glorious boobs. It has a charm that the other movies don’t and frankly, the two leads in this are more charismatic than the leads in any of the other films.

That could also be due to the fact that I’ve been crushing hard on Monique Gabrielle ever since I saw her in The Return of Swamp Thing, as a kid. Finding out later that she was a Penthouse Pet was a pretty stellar discovery in my teen years.

Like the other films, this one was made by Roger Corman’s studio but he didn’t direct it. Instead, he hired Jim Wynorski, who had just come off of directing the cult classic horror/sci-fi/comedy, Chopping Mall. I think that his style was beneficial to this picture and how it was presented as a more amusing movie than its predecessor.

The story is pretty cookie cutter stuff for cheap Conan knockoffs but it has some unique bits. For one, we are treated to an intergender wrestling match in an actual ring around the midpoint of the film. Also, it doesn’t try to emulate and ripoff Conan as much as the first film and works as its own thing in a similar setting.

The special effects are pretty cheap but everything still looks okay for what this is. It certainly looks better than the European sword and sorcery movies of the era. In fact, it feels similar in visual tone to the first Beastmaster. Sure, it lacks Beastmaster‘s hard edge but it utilizes the night in the same way, keeping things kind of small scale, production-wise, without exposing too many of its budgetary flaws.

All praise aside, this is still a cheap movie, as Roger Corman associated productions go. But out of the Deathstalker pictures, I’d say that it looks the best and uses its budget pretty well.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Deathstalker films and other very low budget barbarian movies.

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.

Film Review: Outlaw of Gor (1988)

Also known as: Gor II (US), Outlaw (English TV title)
Release Date: December, 1988 (Germany)
Directed by: John Cardos
Written by: Peter Welbeck, Rick Marx
Based on: Outlaw of Gor by John Norman
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Jack Palance, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier

Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Get out of here, you disgusting worm!” – Queen Lara

I’ve never seen the first Gor movie but when something is as wonderfully bad as this is, you don’t really need a bunch of context to enjoy the cheese.

Besides, I had seen this years ago when it was showcased in the fifth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it now, as well.

Sure, it’s going to get a low rating but it’s a bad movie. I will be fairly kind to it, however, as it is chock full of sword and sorcery and science fiction cheesiness that makes it hard to believe that this wasn’t actually an Italian Conan ripoff, which were in abundance in the ’80s.

This is actually an American film and it was even distributed by Cannon Films. However, it did hit European markets first and starred a lot of European actors.

This also has Jack Palance in it and it immediately made me think of Hawk the Slayer, another ’80s sword and sorcery flick that featured Palance as its main antagonist.

The plot is really strange as it sees a normal dude in the normal world end up on another planet where he is basically a warrior king. He also takes along his annoying, doofus friend.

Apart from that, this is a wobbly plot full of ’80s fantasy tropes, sword and sorcery action but mostly forgettable scenes.

Overall, this is nowhere near the upper echelon of ’80s sword and sorcery movies but it also isn’t at the bottom of the barrel. It’s lower than average but still engaging and enjoyable if you’re into these sort of things.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the first Gor movie, as well as other really low budget sword and sorcery flicks.

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.

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.

Comic Review: The Tomb of Dracula – The Complete Collection, Vol. 1

Published: October 4th, 2017
Written by: Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin
Art by: Gene Colan, Alan Weiss, Gil Kane (cover)
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics, 518 Pages

Review:

This was an interesting collection, as it not only featured the first few story arcs of The Tomb of Dracula comic book series but it also featured issues of the black and white comics magazine Dracula Lives!

Additionally, this features the first appearance and first story of Blade, the character made most famous by Wesley Snipes in the film trilogy that kicked off in 1998. It also has a story that pits Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane against Dracula, capitalizing off of the popular sword and sorcery trend in comics at the time.

Overall, this is a pretty neat comic and since I love the Dracula character in many of his incarnations, it’s cool seeing Marvel’s take on him. I also like that Dracula exists within Marvel canon, as well as Robert E. Howard’s canon, because it opens up a lot of possibilities. Sadly, I don’t think we ever got a Dracula and Godzilla crossover even though both of them existed at Marvel at the same time.

I absolutely love the art in this whether its the stuff from the Tomb stories or the Lives! ones. But I do kind of wish that they would’ve made this a beefier collection of just The Tomb of Dracula while also making a collection just for Dracula Lives!

Both series are great but they’re also very different in that the Dracula Lives! comics didn’t have to adhere to the Comics Code Authority and therefore, were a lot darker, more violent and much sexier.

Anyway, I enjoyed both halves of this huge collection and I look forward to delving into the second volume in the near future.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the later Marvel Dracula stories, as well as other ’70s Marvel horror titles.