Review: Red Sonja: The Black Tower #1

I have had great joy in all the wonderful comics coming out by Dynamite relating to Red Sonja.  They have taken the character that was always a little rough around the edges, and gave her some serious substance.  In that pursuit, they have created a Red Sonja that is well-rounded, well-written, and some of the best titles coming out.  I liken Gail Simone’s run as being the best I have read with the character.  She set a high bar and still does. Now with the successes of Red Sonja, Dynamite has expended the titles offering side issues of stories, one shots, and other minis.  Some have been really good.  Jim Zub’s Red Sonja and Cub comes to mind bringing a little anime touch into this sword and sandal action.  I also dug Nancy A Collins’ take in the Berserker one shot.  But some of the others like the Sanctuary one shot and the Legends of Red Sonja title has been somewhat less in my like factor. Where maybe some glimpses are there, nothing really spectacular comes out that knocks me out.

There is a new release coming out today however that shows some promise. And if we are to believe some of the opening lines, it might just offer to us news of Red Sonja’s demise on down the road.  The title is called Red Sonja: The Black Tower and it features the writing talents of Marvel regular Frank Tieri and artist Cezar Razek. The story centers on Sonja’s entrance into a walled city that has been known as a sanctuary of peace and safety that has recently been intruded upon by a mysterious black tower that appeared out of nowhere and has begun to put lots of unease to the locals within the city. Sonja has to intervene after an altercation and we roll from there.

My initial thought of this opening issue is that it is brutal, bloody brutal.  During Sonja’s intervention, she is tasked with taking out a thug named Fengar Tolt and his band of equally imposing thugs who are starting to terrorize people, accusing them of evil related to the Tower’s appearance. I won’t say the outcome of the battle, but I will say lots of body parts are flying and being lopped off.  It ain’t pretty.  After the battle, some strange things occur that makes Sonja question what she sees and she now has a new enemy for life who appears to be hell-bent on vengeance. I think most people would be if what happened to them had happened to us. If you read the story, you will know what I am talking about.

Red Sonja - The Black Tower #1Overall, the story flows well enough.  The action is in your face and the provocation that begins the action is likewise in your face.  Tieri and Razek waste no time in unleashing Red Sonja’s devilish fury.  Still though, we are given lots of in your face action, but very little story at this moment.  The action is intentional by Tieri as he is trying to throw the reader off.  As things move forward, pieces of the puzzle should begin to occur which I expect will shape this title to be what it is meant to be.  But even with that knowledge, I think I still felt that I was looking for more.

Maybe I have been spoiled by the many good stories the past couple of years.  I don’t know, but I didn’t quite get into this one as I was hoping that I would. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I believe the two elements that weighted the issue down was the amount of heavy cutting violence with the overuse of narration at the beginning.

I recognize where narration for Red Sonja is a traditional element. And Tieri, I believe, was tapping into that vein.  But it was kind of off-putting to me as I think it was really not necessary outside of the opening sequences. With the art, hey, I can handle brutal violence as much as the next guy. But things here felt like overkill.  It may be just something to draw the reader in, but I think that I was actually a little bit surprised, especially when I start off with Amanda Conner’s more cartoony looking cover.  I guess I was expecting that feel with the cover. And then, I get brutal blood, guts, and other body parts.

Now technically, Rezak’s art is good.  The guy has skills and looking at some of his advance previews, there are some big and nasty things being prepared for our She Devil. So, I think that maybe this first issue was just more of a blip than a full on disaster.  It’s not bad, but feels like it is missing at the moment.

Overall, this first issue is not bad, but not great either.  It is a bubble rider that will either pop or float off into new highs.  I am hoping for the latter as Frank Tieri has the chops for some good stories and he is very capably backed by Razek’s art.  This has potential.  We will just have to see if it makes it.

Score: 3/5

Writer: Frank Tieri Artist: Cezar Razek Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/3/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital