Red Sonja #9

This was an interesting issue. Sonja is collecting the third artisan for the dying pharoah’s last party. This time, the person that she is seeking is a high priced prostitute. Sonja’s been all work and no play and the beautiful specimens in the brothel are a sight for the travel worn, cold and horny Sonja. But the madam tosses out Sonja’s muddy, saddle-rashed arse. Sonja has recently been robbed and can’t afford to pay.

Sonja scales the wall and breaks into Aneva’s room. She momentarily reflects that Aneva is the “Princess of Passion” that she sells her body. “I suppose it’s not much different than what I do, what any soldier does.” And the truth of that really struck me. The complaints about sex work are usually: “but that’s selling your body” (as if at any job you are not selling a piece of yourself), “You’re opening yourself up to violence/injury or disease”. The comparison is also made often between sex work and modelling or athletics, but in the case of expected violence: soldier would be a closer match. 

Obviously, I have thought about this before, but for those who haven’t it is intriguing.

Aneva is hesitant to leave, she’s trying to unionize the escorts so that they can protect themselves from exploitation, theft and assault. 

Sonja tells Aneva about the pharaoh and his slaves. She needs Aneva’s help to see that the slaves are freed. Aneva agrees and they set out. 

Sonja’s been feeling the negative effects of herown life style and agrees to let Aneva give her a makeover. Sonja is distraught, she could have been this beautiful if her tribe wasn’t killed, if she wasn’t enslaved, if she wasn’t driven to the life she leads. The pair get caught up and when the greedy and vengeful Ferox arrives. Ferox is the man who claims to protect the prostitutes but abuses them himself and takes a cut of their income. He sees Sonja dolled up and assumes she is another “plaything.”

“My name, you lackwit doughy-faced ape. Is Red Sonja.”

A melee ensues and Sonja strikes down Ferox’s men, but it is Aneva who takes out Ferox himself. 

Turns out Aneva was named Toa, she grew up on a farm and her brothers taught her how to fight. She was born poor, a skinny kid who worked herself to the bone. Sex work was a way out, but she always dreamed of a life like Sonja’s, of prestige, of rescuing damsels.

So the two had more in common than they thought.

Issue #9 touched on a few interesting sociological concepts. Legitimizing sex work, appearance/beauty norms and sexism, the myth of free will.

If sex workers were able to unionize it would be viewed differently. If sex work was viewed as work instead of criminal behavior, victims of abuse, robbery or harrassment would be able to report without fear of repercussion from law enforcement or reporting from health care workers. Sex work is just that: work. Many people in entry level jobs find their employment exclusionary, exploitative and leaving them with low chance for social mobility.  So how different is it

And in regards to my statement “the myth of free will” how much of a choice do people have in their own destiny? Now this isn’t dire, and this isn’t 100% BUT, as referenced by Sonja and Toa. Aneva is at risk of abuse and exploitation in the brothel, correctly; she places the fault on the abuser and not the victims and seeks to improve working conditions. Her alternative, the way she was raised, saw her already as hungry, struggling and at risk for victimhood by theft. Sonja never got to be feminine, nurturing or excessive because of the tragedies that befell her family. In flashback in earlier issues, we saw that she was not born to be lethal, in fact she wouldn’t kill a rabbit for supper. She would have been soft, but her life circumstances wouldn’t allow it. Both women became who they are because it necessary for their own survival. So there’s a little musing on agency vs destiny. Free will is a myth because everything we go through influences the way our brains make decisions, we don’t have as many options as some would want us to believe. That’s why after Sonja’s family was killed she didn’t decide “Oh hey, I’m going to be a high priced escort”

And on to sexism and conventionally beauty norms, this is actually coming full circle: this discussion came up recently in regards to Lara Croft’s “breast reduction” -what girl’s with big boobs can’t have adventures and PhDs? or in the case of the Big Bang Theory’s bubbly dreamer airhead and pretty girl Penny versus the genius and frumpy Farrah Fowler, or actual Farrah Fowler actress Mayim Bailik versus pretty redhead science mascot Kari Byron (both here). Or: in the actual world, Iowa Supreme Court ruled it was legal for a dentist to fire his assistant because she was too beautiful. So from both men or women, as a society conventionally attractive women are view as being less smart, less capable and beauty becomes a liability in professional careers. Sonja can still sling a sword even after her Cinderella makeover (if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother were a sex worker).

Think about it.

The Movement #12

The final issue. I’m heart broken. This was a consistently good series with unique characters and nods to the rest of DC Comics, Gail Simone’s other titles and Coral City’s sister city Gotham. 

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Freddie Williams II has always provided art that well suits the feel of this title, but it’s above and beyond when we’re treated to a 2 page spread of Virtue’s ultimate dream for “The Movement”: Virtue and crew are fighting side by side with Justice League bigwigs. Mouse vs. Cheetah, Katharsis sword fighting against Deadpool, Virtue throwing down against Sinestro. It’s gorgeous and really showcases all that Channel M’s hacktivists could have accomplished. I’m so bummed. Virtue thought they could be big like the JLA, but with a twist, they could show people that empathy was as important as strength, that anyone could be a hero, “But then I remembered that I live here. In the ‘tweens. And they were never going to ask us to join a club that lives on mount Olympus.” 

24 hours ago (after a “we’ve come so far” montage where Burden cracks a joke and Mouse finds a new woman to like) Mr. Cannon infiltrates the sweatshop. He tells them that his son is the Cornea Killer. And that he needs to be stopped. The Movement confronts them and offers him an easy way. Come quietly and he’ll go to the police… if not, “the ‘tweens gets some of its blood back.” The Cornea Killer does not comply. In a twist, Cannon has Whitt on back up to take out The Movement. 

The Cornea Killer sacrifices himself in front of Whitt’s bullet to save his father. But it’s too soon, Vengeance Moth takes out Whitt before anyone dies. We get Holly’s whole backstory as told to Captain Meers and it all ends on a note of hope instead of death or disbanding. 

Gail Simone did a wonderful job wrapping everything up, I hope to see Virtue make a comeback somewhere in Gotham. I enjoyed the DIY nature of the heroes in this book, they’re a resourceful bunch, I’m sure they’ll pop back up somewhere. I hope. I’m really sad to see this one go. It’s one of the only DC series that I read and the only I actually consistently enjoy. I think this could have gotten a better start is it wasn’t billed with the Green Team. That one didn’t appeal to me and I think there was a huge misconception that you had to read BOTH; so people missed out. 

Comic-book Catch up #4

Featuring Ms Marvel #3, Tomb Raider #3, Lazarus #8

Ms Marvel #3

Kamala Khan is experiencing the backlash from sneaking out. Her parents are upset, she’s still upset with Bruno. Bruno has his own mayhem happening, his brother asks him to steal from his register at the convenience store. Zoe is getting all the attention for getting saved while Kamala tries to get a grip on her powers and ends up in hiding even though she’s the hero in this story. She’s worrying she’s outgrowing her life “like a pair of pants that no longer fit” and in the next moment she’s confronting both teenage drama and an armed robber head on. G Willow Wilson writes teenage well, and she provides insight to the way that Kamala’s culture separates her from others in Jersey City, but also how it bonds her with her friends. She questions authority but is realistically insecure and charming. 

Tomb Raider #3

We’re treated to a bit more backstory on the hard hitting Reyes. In Dublin, her daughter is in imminent danger from the Solarii cult. They want the artifact Lara stole. Only, she still doesn’t remember it. She tries to lie, but the cult members don’t buy it. Suddenly, someone takes aim and shoots the gangsters and Lara breaks a glass over someone’s head. Meanwhile, Sam is in trouble. Lara and Reyes make a break for it, with the men in hot pursuit, Reyes and her daughter split from Lara (I love when characters don’t all orbit the main protagonist, btw. So Reyes calling Lara out on being the cause of this, on being bad luck. Worthwhile). Lara clubs a goon with the a busker’s guitar and grabs his gun. Reyes’ daughter says she was too mean to Lara. Lara finds out that Sam has been taken and throws down, but one goon sneaks up on her- she averts disaster but causing a soccer riot. But the goons just keep coming. Luckily, Reyes shows her daughter what it means to be loyal and double backs for Lara, with a “Don’t thank me, it was Miss Manners here.” And Lara declares they’ll go back to Yamatai to stop this and save Sam.

Sam Nishimura has the best answering machine message of all time. “I’m either off shooting an award winning documentary or passed out drunk. You know what to do.”

Lazarus #8

The first 5 were amazing, a new series with so much promise. One with a female lead (and still more females with their own agendas) that creates a world that is bleak, violent and corporate. One of all out class warfare. How could I not be in love? But the momentum has slowed, flashbacks to Forever’s childhood bog down the series instead of advance it. Currently, Forever is looking for and IED while the Barretts are looking to go get jobs with the Carlyles, they’re headed for Denver. Them and everyone else. Like pioneers travelling to a new frontier, to their last ditch effort: the road is hard. Worse when Forever finds that Denver is the target of this attack. But her father refuses to cancel the lift. Forever is in a race to stop the plot in the final pages. but it won’t be resolved til next month. 

Red Sonja #8

Sonja is still on the quest to bring the legendary artisans together for the dying emperor’s final bash (for which he will set free 1,000 slaves as reward). Red Sonja has been travelling with the highbrow cook that she saved from the swamp. She’s in pursuit of the great entertainer the Beast Lord, who she had previously sworn to kill. She’s also facing some.. uh, “hungers” that the cook won’t indulge. Every moment of this is perfection. 

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This page (is probably too small to read) but the end when she says “I’m Red Sonja, I’m everyone’s type” LOVE IT

When they arrive at the festival to recruit the Beast Lord, he is in the middle of a barbaric show involving abused and hungry hunting dogs and a bear raised in captivity to fight for it’s master. It’s cruel and grotesque. The utilitarian Sonja makes no qualms about digesting animals but watching them suffer so enrages her. Mid performance, she draws back an arrow seemingly intending to kill Beast Lord, but instead she provides a quick death for the bear. This earns the cook and Sonja a trip to the dungeon. She tries to climb out (Gribaldi could have escaped this fate if he’d used his clout, but he does not wish to consort with an animal abuser- I know it’s a “vegan thing” but I would like to point out that last issue, the cook fed baby lizards to swamp people and incurred the wrath of large humanoid-lizards, so not exactly a poster child for causing animals grief… but I digress). Sonja tries to climb out but Beast Lord comes along to smack talk and stomp on her hand. Ouch.

They are visited by Rat, Beast Lord’s assistant -and the one that the animals really love. She says that she hates him and that she will set Sonja and the cook free. She meant half of that. They end up in the arena, about to be killed for sport. Sonja HAS been down that road. The cook blames Rat, but Sonja spares her. She didn’t really have a choice. Rat, in turn, triple crosses everyone and sets the animals out. They attack their abuser first, but they are hungry animals and it’s only a matter of time. Beast Lord dies. But Sonja opts to bring Rat to provide entertainment (and gets a playful lick on the cheek from a tiger). 2 of 5 collected! And on to the next!

My favorite aspect currently is Walter Geovani’s interpretation of Sonja, she has a regular sized waist, thick thighs a body befitting of a travelling sword slinger. She’s gorgeous but not girly.. and on this particular journey… she’s ditched the bikini in favor of a Xena-esque dress. The art is amazing and splendid, #7 took place in a grimy swamp, this one in a more decadent and exotic setting, lush colors and battle scenes that were busy but not disjointed.  

Frison’s cover is fantastic. Minimal but very very ominous.

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Commentary about Female Heroes’ Costumes (part 2)

So in Part 1 of this rant I touched on the fact that I like showing off my body. I do. I really do. And you can tell me “society told me I needed to” I don’t actually care. I like make up, I like tight clothes, I like looking good. So I sympathized when I Setsu Oh raving about Lara Croft’s recent breast reduction, People jumped in from left and right about how it’s more “realistic” and less “hypersexualized” as if DD cups don’t exist in the wild. @SetsuOh also went on to say that big breasted women are usually touted as bimbos, so a well endowed PhD and survival skills? Bad ass and out of the normal stereotype.

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But I think this is a situation where either way there’s something to complain about. But asserting that big breasted women can’t be Indiana Jones because it’s not realistic is fucking stupid.

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Which leads me to my next point. Of women who show off their bodies, the more endowed: the higher the chance it will somehow be labelled as vulgar. Because having a female body is vulgar. No, I don’t believe that, but it seems to be the consensus among most of humanity. 

What do I mean?

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This image was posted along with an article about cosplayers hypersexualizing characters. I agreed with some points… BUT the accompanying text for this reads, “I mean, really? REALLY? If I had kids with me at this convention, I would actually be pretty pissed off as a parent.” And I just have a question: I mean these kids will, at some point, go to a beach or pool, am I right?” She’s wearing slightly more than you average bikini. And yet it’s easy to look and say “SLUT” isn’t it? I have news… That’s not her fault. That’s everyone else’s fault for buying into the hype that if a girl shows off her body then she’s a bimbo and a slut and not worthy of respect. (The post is here, and I agreed with everything up until that point)

Actually, I found this article about MJ’s sexualization over the years. It’s fascinating. It’s also fascinating that photos of Kirsten Dunst from the films were included based only on the fact that she has nipples. 

And on cosplay in general “By wearing their likeness, you are allowing all that the character has come to represent. By emphasizing your own body in the costume that you yourself have created or paid for, you are granting another the right to utilize your form first as approval for continued actions and for generating the idea that women both appreciate and prefer to be cast in this light.” From the post Cosplay and the Female Form and I always feel a little betrayed when those who include themselves as “geeks” and “feminists” say something that is so dubious. Maybe this statement seems innocuous to you, so I’ll explain my position: I like to look good. I like when men look good, too.

So what? It is, in fact, certain individuals claiming feminism who say that women cannot both be beautiful and clever, sexy and strong, pretty and courageous. 

I’m all set.

But with that in mind, I think that the costume should fit the character. Lady Sif should not show up in a chainmail bikini… But you know what, Sonja doesn’t have to go full armor either. I actually think that MJ Watson costume is really dumb, I just don’t find it offensive. I don’t find Kirsten Dunst having nipples to be sexualization, I don’t need other women to tell me what to wear so I can properly represent my gender. No one has to do that.

Don’t understand? I’m assuming we all have Netflix at this point, watch the 30 Rock episode “TGS Hates Women” with guest star Sarah Silverman. She’s hired on and comes in looking like a “sexy baby” and Liz Lemon goes to council her on how she’s too girly for the Girly Show, Tina Fey whose character Liz Lemon became a feminist icon for holding a high profile job and being “real bodied” and too lazy for sex and wanting to eat junk food immediately hates on Sarah’s character for not being like her.

Right after this Sarah lays the smackdown. There’s not clip on youtube, you’ll just have to watch it. You should anyway.

But some images are more ridiculous than others:

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The Movement #10

The Movement is cancelled, but has til issue 12 to wrap things up tight and Gail Simone seems to be tying up loose ends already.

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I love this cover by Stephane Roux. Their spirit animals, the surprise and determination. Perfect.

 

Channel M take the KO’d Batgirl back to the sweatshop to unmask her, but Virtue with her camera phone and Batgirl groggy on the floor gives Barbara some Killing Joke flashbacks and she flips out on everyone…

…except Katharsis who has gone after Horizon. And they fall in Insta-Love. Katharsis and Horizon hook-up and while Katharsis isn’t usually affectionate, she is VERY impulsive so… I’ll buy it. But I had to suspend some disbelief to consider that she would actually behead Horizon after it’s discovered that he’s killed two police officers in Coral City. Virtue decides to hand him over, with a promise from Batgirl that she’ll check in on him. He just wanted to be a hero, he’s not in control.

While Katharsis was getting her groove on, Mouse was getting his crush squashed.

Mouse: Do you not like my rats? Some girls don’t like rats, Katharsis said.

Tremor: No, it’s not that. Mouse, I’m asexual.

Mouse: a sexual what?

Vengeance Moth: Poor Mouse. I thought being around kids with powers would be all hookups and booty calls.

Burden: I never understand anything anyone says anymore.

It’s too good. It’s just too good. But Channel M got a glimpse of the big time with Batgirl, and a friendly goodbye between Virtue and Batgirl suggested that Virtue might stop by Gotham sometime. It was good to see them interact, Batgirl is stronger, more capable but she saw the good in what the unglamorous Virtue and co. were accomplishing.  Batgirl is used to the money and the resources and the bad guys going to Arkham. Virtue is used to scraping by and things not being so cut and dry. 

The Graveyard Gang, who got their buns kicked a couple issues back officially quit. The Cornea Killer is still out there though! Next issue promises to bring Burden’s Angel Brother! The next couple of issues are going to be epic, but unfortunately will likely feel rushed the way this one did. Freddie Williams did a great job on the art as well, the layering of the panels during Batgirl’s Killing Joke flashback was particularly epic, snapshots, jumping between reality and memories conveyed urgency and fear really well.

I’m gonna miss Coral City so much! waaaaaah

Legends of Red Sonja #4

The Grey Riders continue on their mission to get revenge against Red Sonja. They head into a village where they ask around.

Subscription cover by Frank Thorne

Subscription cover by Frank Thorne

Jenny’s Story: Parallax by Mercedes Lackey is told by a young woman who recalls being taken by perverts. Nei Ruffino creates images that show both what happened: On one side, panels lined with glitzy metallic accents show the girl in a tiara accosted by men with demon horns, the panel on the right shows scrappy dirty thieves and a messy haired boyish kid. Them becoming “sisters in arms” vs Sonja making Jenny haul the dead bodies. Nei Ruffino killed it on this one, the glittering memory vs the gritty truth, the art perfectly conveys this in a unique way.

The town considers Red Sonja an ally. And the Grey Riders are not amused. They continue into a forest. But the forest is home to a powerful being.

We see that Sonja has met this creature, this GOD before. God of the green, forest god, she rescued him and they shared a night of passion, after which he created a child in her image (actually, she looks like Poison Ivy, but whatever).

Little Red and her dad.

Little Red and her dad.

 

Very cool sort of gender role reversal. Sonja’s all “what the heck, why not have sex with a god” and he’s all “I want to have her babies”

Very rad. Marjorie M Liu, author of (among other things) urban fantasy series Dirk and Steele as well as Marvel’s X-23 series, circa 2010-2012. (I have a thing for X-23 right now, so I might have to find these), Phil Noto -who also teamed up with Liu on X-23- provided the art here and we get a more sultry and stunning Sonja, light and shadows bounce off characters and lush backgrounds beautifully and provide an ethereal feel.

Next month’s issue is the conclusion of this 40th anniversary celebration on our favorite chainmail bikini clad ginger, Legends of Fiction’s Legends of Red Sonja. At the very end of this one we see Red Sonja protecting the forest still taking out the Riders one by one. Will her daughter help chew them up? Or something else? I think that’s the most fun part of this series, you really never knew what you were getting next. Something serious, something funny, cartoon-y or gritty, magical, a treasure hunt, a scorned lover, a story told through the lens of jealousy or admiration.