What we have here is less of an “art book” which is what I was assuming from the title and more of a “legal reprinting of old Marvel comics” by Dynamite. Frank Thorne is pretty much the progenitor and greatest artist of the “busty women in comics code approved amounts of chain mail.” From Red Sonja to Lann in Heavy Metal he was the go to guy if you needed a busty woman in varies stages of undress. That sounds dismissive but I mean that with all due respect. I wouldn’t call Jack Kirby to draw hot warrior women and I wouldn’t call Frank Thorne to rip off his own concepts for a rival company out of spite. Love you Jack! It’s written in the old style of comics. The old style, for those who may not be aware, is very much like a novel, in that they tell more than they show. This can manifest in two ways, either with text boxes giving you a lot of description and exposition or with the characters having elongated, unnatural conversation with either themselves or a one-dimensional audience surrogate. Luckily it does the former more than the latter and it does it well. That being said I’m pretty sure the first issue is just a very romantic story about Red Sonja falling in love with a horse. Little did the creators know how much that concept would resonate 39 years later with a whole group of fedora wearing men.
While all the stories are solid the Games of Gita sticks out as one of the best stories of the bunch. Using a series of games and two civilizations it actually draws some very competent comparisons to slavery, social inequality and social unrest. The story is simplistic in how it handles the idea but it never seems too preachy or out of hand in the things it says about how the upper class civilization takes advantage of the enslaved civilization. In the end it’s just a classic good vs. evil story with exactly the ending you would want from such a story and a surprise giant spider ties the whole thing together.
The art, which this book is ostensibly about, is fantastic. Frank Thorne knows when to go into minute detail and is not afraid to use negative space when needed. The panels really flow well from one into the other elevating the solid, but rather basic, fantasy story telling. In the hands of a lesser artist these stories wouldn’t vibrate the way they do. It’s an interesting collection in that it is really just scans of the original sheets that were submitted for publication. But because this is the case it’s all there on the page and a testament to his ability. You see story notes, you see that the page numbers were cut and glued into place, you see what exactly went into making a page of a comic and the fact that the art is still flawless tells you everything you need to know about the artist. If you like your fantasy high, your story telling classic and your barbarian men attractive ladies then you could certainly do worse than this collection.
Writer: Roy Thomas/Clara Noto Artist: Frank Thorne Colorist: Frank Thorne Publisher: Dynamite Price: $150.00 Release Date: 2/11/15 Format: Hardcover; Print