An overwhelming lack of enthusiasm means that there are spoilers ahead for…
Red Sonja/Tarzan #2
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Cover: Aaron Lopresti
“I quite feel that sheathing my blade to get assistance from the man who threw me over isn’t perhaps the wisest of all strategies at this time.”
I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t want to do this.
That’s not to suggest that I’m ordinarily not honest with you, or that I have any specific opposition to writing about this particular comic.
Rather, I’m candidly admitting that I didn’t want to do the Showcase/Spotlight thing at all, for any comic, and wanted to take the weekend off.
Why? Mostly because I’m tired. So very, very tired. The demands of my day job – and, more to the point, the commute to and from it – and the general state of both the world and my life just leave me exhausted, bone-weary in a way that no amount of largely restless sleep can mitigate.
And given the toxicity of fandom that has been so put so thoroughly on display recently, it doesn’t feel like a great time to be a fan of anything.
Beyond any of that, this whole endeavor seems pointless, given the ratio of effort to reward.
We do what we have to do, I guess, and so, for the five or so people who actually look at these things, let’s get started.
I had anticipated – I should, I suppose, say “expected” – writing about The Unexpected, the latest addition to DC’s line of “Metal” spin-off comics, but…meh. It didn’t grab me, and I doubt that I’ll bother continuing to pick it up.
I mentioned that I’m holding off until the end to write about The Man of Steel, and I have no interest in spilling more digital ink on Robinson’s run on Wonder Woman, which left me with only two choices, bot of them involving a certain she-devil with a…well, in the comic I opted to talk about, a dagger.
Following up on the success of Wonder Woman/Conan, Gail Simone spins another tale of time-tossed people who under normal circumstances would never be able to bridge the gap of the millennia that separate them.
Of course, these aren’t ordinary people, and these aren’t normal circumstances.
In the first issue, we found John Clayton, AKA Lord Greystoke, AKA Tarzan squaring off against a wealthy trophy hunter by the name of Eson Dull.
The battle begins as one being fought in the courts, but briefly turns physical, once the Lord of the Jungle encounters a gorilla that Dull is keeping in captivity. Still, it’s legal maneuvering that, seemingly, wins the day for Lord Greystoke.
There is, of course, more to Dull than just a weird name and being a rich douchebag, as we see by moving back thousands of years from the early 20th Century and visiting the Hyborian Age, where we find Red Sonja battered and despondent after encountering a man named, you guessed it, Eson Dull.
Following that encounter, Sonja visits a witch, to whom she tells the tale of that run-in, and who sets Sonja on the path that destiny has laid out for her.
Back in 1921, Tarzan receives some rather unpleasant “gifts” from Dull, and swears vengeance, but before he can get to that, a certain red-haired woman, dressed in a manner befitting a lady of the time, but not befitting the lady herself, shows up to warn Tarzan that Eson Dull is preparing to hunt Tarzan’s family – both the human one and the animal one.
And that’s where we pick up, with Tarzan stripping down and riding off to Dull’s estate, and with Sonja, much to the shock and dismay of Tarzan’s faithful friend N’Tubu, who struggles to cover the eyes of the children present, does the same.
At Dull’s estate, Tarzan and Sonja deal with Dull’s hired goons, and then listen to an improbable tale told by Dull’s “Chinese” gardener, a tale of a time in which Tarzan and Sonja previously encountered – and fought – each other, though neither remembers it.
The gardener, it seems, is not from China, but is instead from the land that would one day become China, which Sonja, in the Hyborian Age, knows as Khitai.
The Khitan encourages Tarzan and Sonja to seek out a “futurist” with whom Tarzan is acquainted for answers as to how this unremembered encounter – which left Tarzan with a scar that proves the tale’s veracity – could have occurred.
As they journey to visit Tarzan’s friend, Sonja reveals that the dagger she carries, given to her by the witch, allows her to speak English.
The “futurist” turns out to be H.G. Wells, who informs Tarzan that time has somehow splintered, in a way that centers around Tarzan and Sonja, and inadvertently reveals to Tarzan that he’s seen it happening, as, despite the fact that he’d promised to never do so again, he’s been making use of his time machine.
Which is what Tarzan went there for in the first place.
As with Wonder Woman/Conan, Gail sets up a bit of a mystery as to how this crossover is happening at all, revealing the answers slowly rather than simply providing starting at the beginning and providing the set up. Similarly, there’s another mystery to be explained – such as the unremembered fight scene – that has to be reconciled with the known state of things, much as she did with the Diana/Yanna thing in Wonder Woman/Conan.
We also have the whole “Our heroes fight each other to an inconclusive draw, in which one seems to have the upper hand, but only as the result of a quirk of fate.”
Overall, it’s…fine. I liked Wonder Woman/Conan more than I do this, even at this early stage in the story, though that probably has a lot to do with being more personally-invested in the characters involved in that earlier crossover. While I’m quite familiar with Sonja, I’m not as versed in Tarzan lore. I’ve never read any of the original stories by Burroughs, so I only know Tarzan from comics, movies – though I haven’t seen the most recent one – and the old cartoon from when I was a kid, and I can’t help but view him as a deeply problematic literary trope that is difficult to make relevant in the current era.
In fairness, if anyone can do that, it’s Gail, and so far she’s managed it by not delving too deeply into the more racist elements of his backstory, taking more of a high-concept approach to the character that isn’t bogged down by the details.
Still, there’s no way for “Kreegah
bungolo bundolo*!” as a multipurpose phrase that means whatever it needs to mean to be anything other than ridiculous (and racist).
The other advantage that Wonder Woman/Conan had was in the art, where Aaron Lopresti knocked it out of the park with some of the finest work I’ve ever seen him produce.
Ordinarily, I’m quite fond of Walter Geovani, and I’ve particularly enjoyed his depiction of the She-Devil when he provided the art for Gail’s run as the writer of the Red Sonja ongoing series, and he’s also been excellent – again, paired with Gail – in Clean Room.
He has exactly the sort of clean, minimalist style that I respond to, and his work on Clean Room brought to mind the similarly-clean style of the late Steve Dillon.
But here, it’s…it’s kind of a mess. I’m not entirely certain where the problem lies, as, at times it looks like an issue with the coloring, and at others it looks like it may be some kind of production issue, with images improperly resized, or some problem with the printing.
It has the appearance of being rushed and of having been inked with a Sharpie; the lines are thick and flat and imprecise.
It’s not bad, exactly, just…disappointing.
The book is not without its charms; I’m particularly amused by the scenes with Sonja attempting to pull off the appearance of a proper lady of the early 20th Century, and then eagerly ripping that propriety to shreds.
The inevitable hero fight was by-the-numbers, but was staged well, and had some entertaining twists.
Still, quite apart from my lack of enthusiasm for doing this, I’m not finding the book terribly exciting, though, ultimately, In Gail I Trust, so I’ll see this one through to the end, and just hope that it – and my mood – manages to improve.
I’m going to be lazy again this week and tell you that, despite my comments here, you should seek out all of the other works of Simone and Geovani.
(And I’ll point out that clicking through and actually buying some of these things will help with that “reward” part of my efforts.)
That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check back on Saturday for the Showcase.
And remember that another way to provide some reward for my efforts, such as they are, is to support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.
*I corrected the typo. I still say it’s ridiculous, but what do I know? I’m the one who screwed up and typed bungalo.