Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Artists: Mel Rubi(p), Brian Buccellato(c)
Publisher: Marvel/ Dynamite
And still Spider-Man/Red Sonja cannot give a reason for its existence. This is another case of superior art being the saving grace of a comic book. Though even in that regard there are a few caveats to lodge, and brother, apparently you cannot have art without a following page of advertising.
The story, such as it is, pits Sonja and Spidey against Spider-Foes ala Gath. Khulan Gath has turned parts of Manhattan into a Dungeons and Dragons module. Hobgoblin becomes a demon. Scorpion becomes a demon. The Lizard doesn't change much. The New Yorkers affected become peasants or players, et cetera, et cetera.
During the Tolkienization, Gath scored himself some new threads, but these of course are the alien pair of pants known as Venom. Why wearing Venom makes him more dangerous is beyond me. Gath was fairly potent to begin with, and Venom just makes him inkier. He has a new shtick, but as a sorcerer, he was more powerful than Venom. The writer doesn't resolve my confusion.
The best moment in the story occurs when Sonja finds herself in modern day New York. Gath's spell has physical limits. These scenes allow Oeming to display some of her acumen, which makes her an interesting character to follow in her solo adventures. She for instance quickly deduces the nature of mechanical things and doesn't fall for the stupid tropes of yore. The cops however really need to attend some classes on telling heroes from villains. Red Sonja with her silvery chainmail and sword looks like a hero. She walks like a hero. She stands like a hero. The cops treat her as a threat, and that's just boring. That's what happens nine times out of ten in fiction.
Mel Rubi's artwork is luscious and varied. Splash pages and spreads share space with widescreen and traditional panels. I however must question why some of the artwork is there.
When Mary Jane reminds Sonja of her love for Peter, she's seen in what appears to be the throes of ecstasy. This glowing naked but of course nipple-less astral form looks ridiculously out of place, and the two pages almost act like a pin-up. I mean, what the hell, guys? I like Mary Jane. I'm all for sexiness and nudity; these elements are intrinsic to art, but this illustration isn't remotely appropriate for the story, the characterization or the interplay of the cast.
The half-page rendering of Sonja observing MJ's memories of Spidey's long, heroic history is far more powerful in art, and this scene pertains to the story. The depiction allows Sonja's eyes to mirror her impressions of Spider-Man in battle and her respect for the love MJ has for Peter. All the pin-up does is suggest that Mary Jane is beginning to have an orgasm.
I will give Marvel this much. At least they didn't cut the spreads with advertisements. Still, Marvel's advertising positioning leaves much for which to be desired. After the first page--admittedly a splash, we get an advertisement. After that we get a spread, but that first ad being ballyhooed so soon almost feels like a slap. There are a helluva lot of ads in Spider-Man/Red Sonja. I counted twenty-two pages of artwork. This is contrasted by twenty-two pages of advertisements, four Marvel house ads and that demeaning Valentine's Day leftover where the House of Ideas expresses them about which fictional character they would date.
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