Monday, April 23, 2018

Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues Issue 4

As you may recall, last issue ended with the death of Red Sonja (Dead Sonja?).  So it is not too surprising that we open on Dark Annisia patrolling the fence she demanded built around the doomed city of Patra.

Dark Annisia spots an old man climbing over the fence, a task that is not that impressive as the fence cannot be more than three feet high at the most.  Seriously, when she said in issue two that she was going to build a fence around the plague city and turn it into a “living cemetery”, I envisioned something more impressive.  At the very least I was expecting something that an elderly man would have trouble scrambling over.Did the Patrans pay for this fence?

Dark Annisia stops him, but he claims that there is no plague in Patra; No one has died from the plague since Dark Annisia killed their king and exiled Red Sonja!  Unfortunately, the people in the city are now starving since the fields lay outside the quarantine zone. 

Even more unfortunately for the old man, Dark Annisia asks the ghosts she always sees following her to decide the man’s fate—unsurprisingly they have her kill him by striking his head from his body.  Apparently triggered by the old man’s reverence towards Red Sonja, Dark Annisia declares to her monster men soldiers that from now on she wants to be called “Red Annisia”.

Back in the snowy mountains, Red Sonja is apparently less dead than her rescuers claimed when they found her at the end of the last issue.

This is a bit of a cop out, right?

Not that she is doing very well though.  Red Sonja has gone blind, which apparently is a sign that the plague is nearing its final stages.  While Red Sonja is somewhat delirious at this point, her young rescuers manage to convey to her that the king’s son may be able to cure her if they bring her back to Patra.  Similarly, Red Sonja manages to convey to them that she wants alcohol.  As a compromise, the girls create a makeshift stretcher to pull her behind their horses while Red Sonja drinks from a wineskin and sings poorly.

At this point we have a flashback to the Zamoran Slave Pit with a younger—or at least slightly less well-endowed—Sonja meeting Dark Annisia for the first time.  At this point Annisia has a somewhat mocking tone when talking to the younger woman.  She informs Sonja that names are forbidden in the pit and warns Sonja that her willful attitude will get her sent out fight first.  Sonja simply declares that she has a name and if she gets sent out first she gets sent out first.

Despite Annisia’s condescending tone, she does give Sonja some advice on how to fight—advice Sonja will get a chance to use right away as the two women are sent to the pit to fight together against a team of four men for the amusement of the Zamoran king.

During the battle, Sonja manages to kill three of the four men by herself, much to Annisia’s surprise.  Sonja then methodically cuts off the heads of the men she killed.  Holding the three heads aloft, she proudly declares to the Zamoran king that her name is Red Sonja!

[RS] "Now, say my name." [DA] "Red Sonja" [RS] "You're goddamn right."

Back in the present, Ayla and Nias are foraging in the woods when they are set upon by a group of Zamoran monster men.  Their captain declares that an example must be made of them for breaking the quarantine.  So in somewhat ironic fashion he declares that the girls should be literally gutted like fish.  Specifically, he says, “Bend them forward, cut through to the spines as they do with fish.  Pull out the bones my friends.  Clean them and gut them.”

A still mostly blind Red Sonja hears this pleasant exchange.  Telling the “Deep Ones” that the girls are not seafood, she proceeds to slaughter the monster men despite being her physical limitation.  The captain turns out to be the same monster man who picked which slaves would fight back in the Zamoran pit.

Saving the girls and killing her old tormenter seems to reenergize Red Sonja.  She vows to return to Patra and take down Dark Annisia.

Thoughts

  • I know I mentioned it before, but that fence was truly unimpressive.  No wonder people keep escaping.
  • Dark Annisia rechristening herself as “Red Annisia” seems a little out of left field.
  • I felt the flashback this issue was the weakest one so far.  We already knew Red Sonja and Dark Annisia had bonded in the Zamoran slave pit and I didn’t feel like we got enough new information of what it was like to justify the pages spent on it.  Young Sonja seemed pretty much fully developed, personality wise at least, by the end of her first fight, I wish more time was sent showing how her time in the pits shaped her into the bad ass she is today.
  • I’m having a hard time determining how much time passed between young Red Sonja killing the raiders that destroyed her village and her fighting in the slave pits.  She seems almost as young as she did in last issue’s flashback in the initial scenes with Dark Annisia, but in the fight scene that takes place a few panels earlier, she looks a few years older.  This doesn’t seem intentional as the dialogue implies the flashback is all happening over the course of a few hours.
  • Red Sonja literally calls the Zamoran monster men Deep Ones in this issue.  They still seem more like Davy Jones’ crew from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies than Lovecraft to me though.
  • As the exception that proves the rule, the deep one captain describing how to gut the young women like fish in great detail was well done and creepy.  This was the first time the monster men seemed truly inhuman to me.

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