Archive for June, 2015

Death and the Devil


Red Sonja #16

Sonja has died — or almost so — and meets Death herself, who looks a lot like Sonja, actually. Death wants her on her honor guard, but Sonja has never been one to serve anyone, and she’d much rather try her luck at killing Death herself. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the townspeople are tending to Sonja, trying to figure out a way to cure her, when she gets unexpected visitors — the great artisans she’d collected in a previous storyarc: Gribaldi the chef, Aneva the courtesan, Rat the beast-tamer, Osric the swordsman, Plaitius the soothsayer, and Rakaua the dancer. And then more visitors: from the very first storyarc in Gail Simone’s run on this title, Ayla, Nias, and Dark Annisia, resurrected with the aid of an alchemist’s potion. Can Sonja defeat Death? Can Sonja be brought back from the brink of death?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This may be Simone’s final issue on this series — it’s certainly written like a final issue. If it’s not the last one, Simone is leaving herself a big hurdle to top this one. It’s hard to get much more epic than a duel with Death and a reunion with all your friends. Great story, great art — more evidence that this has been a thoroughly glorious fantasy series.


The Sandman: Overture #5

The mad sun has thrown Morpheus into a black hole — where not even he may be able to escape. He gets a brief respite when his mother pulls him out for a chat, but while he wants to save the universe, she only wants to manipulate him into staying with her forever — and when he refuses, she drops him back into the black hole. But then he’s re-rescued by Destiny, who’s frustrated that there’s a ship in the middle of his garden — and it’s clearly been built by Dream, even though Dream has no memory of creating it. And the cat version of Dream has been keeping busy by traveling to the worlds being destroyed by the mad stars and rescuing people.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not a lot of it makes sense yet — hopefully, that will come in the final issue — but the story is told with a great deal of style with a lot of gorgeous art by J.H. Williams III.


All-New Hawkeye #3

Kate Bishop and Clint Barton are aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier waiting to find out what the spy agency is going to do with the mutant kids they rescued from A.I.M. Maria Hill strongly hints to them that they should do something to extract the kids from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s care before they’re used as weapons. After a few pages of whuppin’ and a ride out of the helicarrier on a flying car, they get the kids home — but how long will they be allowed to keep mutant super-psychic kids?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and a nice story. A nice storytelling gimmick, too, with the pastel watercolor story of young Clint and Barney’s trip to the circus told along the bottom of each page.

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Warrior Princess


Princess Ugg, Volume 1

Princess Ulga hails from the backwater mountain kingdom of Grimmeria, and she’d be perfectly content to spend her time as she always has — fighting rampaging giants. But she’s made a promise to her mother to travel to the far-off kingdom of Atraesca to attend Princess School — she is to learn arts like diplomacy and anything else she can pick up to help her people in their daily lives.

But while Ulga is amazingly competent in matters of war, weapons, animal handling, acrobatics, and athletics, she definitely stands out from her more prim and proper classmates. And when she gets the A-list alpha-bitch Princess Julifer for a roommate, things don’t get much better. She has trouble doing all the princessy things she’s being taught, like caligraphy, fashion, tea parties, lute playing, and her rough and tumble manner makes her the laughing stock of the school as they cruelly nickname her “Princess Ugg.” She has some teachers on her side, and some teachers opposing her — and even her own people believe she’s betrayed them in their fight against the giants.

Can Ulga learn the arts of princessing? Can she gain the acceptance of her classmates? Can she handle the trials of Julifer and her obstinate pet unicorn? Will she get any education? Will she give up? And what’s her secret mission in Atraesca?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Ted Naifeh is best known for comics like “Gloomcookie” and “Courtney Crumrin,” and this comic has gotten a lot less attention than it really deserves. It’s a fun comic, and I think it’s worth reading.

It’s definitely in the “Empowered Princess” sub-genre of all-ages comics, and Ulga is definitely one of the more unusual girl-power heroines to make it into the comics — a genuine barbarian warrior trying — and mostly failing — to fit in with more traditional princesses. She’s the ultimate tomboy, up against the sneers and snubs of the ultimate junior-high cheerleading squad. If that ain’t a tale for the ages, I don’t know what is.

Believe it or not, even though I do consider this an all-ages book, there’s probably gotta be a slight warning for nudity. Ya don’t see anyone’s goodies, but there are multiple shower scenes — the first time to contrast the low-glamour edge of Ulga’s typical morning with the typical morning of a princess like Julifer — and later to contrast the princesses’ slimmer bodies with Ulga’s muscular one. One could argue it’s a matter of body-positivity — but I don’t think I’m comfortable with that — the princesses are thin, and Ulga is athletic, if not outright musclebound. The only people who are heavier than normal are teachers at the school, and they’re not really the focal characters. To make things a little shorter (too late!), parents, thar be veiled nudity ahoy, so if that ain’t what you want your kids reading, don’t get it for ’em.

Having said that — it’s a great story with great art, and I had a blast reading it. If you or your kids want to read a fun comic with a rough-around-the-edges heroine who kicks serious ass, you’re probably going to want to pick this one up.

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