Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues Issue 2

The issue begins with Red Sonja facing off against the only other survivor of the Zamoran slave pits: Dark Annisia.  While fighting the woman she once considered a sister, she remembers her time in the pits.  On the evening before they were to face each other in combat, Annisia vowed that she would not fight Sonja.  When Sonja grimly informs Annisia that they will simply kill her if she doesn’t fight, her response shows the depth of emotion Annisia has developed for Sonja during their time in the pit.

Xena levels of subtext here.

None of this seems be relevant now as Dark Annisia comes after Red Sonja on the battlefield in a rage, screaming at Sonja that her actions “dishonor the dead”.  Despite Red Sonja seeming to have the advantage early in the fight, things take a turn in Annisia’s favor when she pulls a dagger and stabs Sonja in the thigh.

The downside to a chainmail bikini

Obviously a better class of monster soldier is needed.In the meantime we get to see how the battle between the forces of Patra and Zamora is going.  Considering how outnumbered and undertrained the Patra forces are, they seem to be doing pretty well.  We also get to see that the Zamoran forces contain a lot of weird “monster-people” fighting on their side, which pretty much cements that they are the bad guys in this situation.

Back to the battle between Red Sonja and Dark Annisia, Sonja attempts to talk down Annisia and convince her to leave the people of Patra in peace.  Annisia is having none of it though, claiming Sonja’s life is one of “selfishness and betrayal.”  When Red Sonja claims she never betrayed her, Annisia screams it is not her who was betrayed by Sonja but “the dead”, specifically the ghosts of the slaves they killed in the pits.

It quickly becomes obvious to Red Sonja that Dark Annisia is not being poetic; she literally believes the ghosts of the dead follow her around and that it is her duty to bring them new companions to ease their solitude.  She also believes that Red Sonja has forgotten them and merely pretends not to see them.  In other words, Dark Annisia has lost it.

Watch out Sonja, we all saw what ghost like this did in Return of the King

Goodbye Dimath, we hardly knew you.Unfortunately for Red Sonja, even if Dark Annisia is not all there mentally, she has lost none of her deadliness on the battlefield, as she illustrates by casually killing King Dimath.

The sudden death of their monarch has a predictably detrimental effect on the morale of the Petra forces.  Nevertheless, Red Sonja is determined to fight on and make Dark Annisia pay for what she has done.  Almost sadly, Dark Annisia informs Sonja that instead of killing her, it will be Red Sonja who stands down today.  When Sonja asks why she would ever do that, Dark Annisia shows Sonja her reflection in her blade.

Maybe some concealer would have helped.

Yes, Red Sonja has contracted the plague.  Dark Annisia mocks her for throwing away her life for “scribblers and basket weavers”.  However, Dark Annisia gives Sonja a choice because of who Sonja is and what they once shared.  Rather than put Petra to the torch, they will build a fence around the plague city where it will become a “living cemetery”.  All Red Sonja will have to do is kneel before Annisia and surrender.

Ultimately Red Sonja surrenders to save the people of Patra.  Dark Annisia has her marked with the plague markings we saw on the scavengers in the first issue and she is exiled to the snowy mountains of the north where she is to speak to no one and avoid all human contact until she dies.

At least she dressed appropriately for the weather.

Thoughts

  • It is a bold move to have Red Sonja fail so completely in the second issue of the reboot.
  • I was not a fan of having “monster men” as part of the Zamoran army.  I prefer my Hyborian Age adventures to have a more Lovecraftian horror vibe when it comes to such creatures.  As part of this army, they just seemed like a replacement for standard fantasy goblins or orcs.
  • There is a definite implication that Dark Annisia’s feelings for Red Sonja are more of a romantic love than a sisterly one, although Red Sonja herself seems oblivious to this.
  • I think that the reveal that Dark Annisia believes herself to be literally haunted by the spirits of the people she killed was handled well.
  • Ending the issue with Red Sonja wandering the snowy mountains with her plague markings is a hell of a cliffhanger.

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