Book Reviews: Graphical Heroes

“I’m a non-believer,” I said cheerfully. “Or would you prefer infidel? Heretic? Maybe Blasphemer?”

Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne
When the king is dying he wants to make Sonja his heir; the redhead earns my everlasting respect by refusing the throne. The guy who does take over has made everyone safe, so now she’s bored. But after she dreams about how she could have been queen—and previous lovers—she wakes to find a family fleeing from conscription and finally finds a fight.
It turns out the guy who wanted to win her with riches is now king, and he still doesn’t get why she says no. When another former boyfriend—she’s a redhead, she gets around—is too smitten with her to bring her in, the new king sends three other redheads—who look a lot more like classic Sonja than the legend herself—to hunt her down. Later she has a long battle with a flaming roc, and makes it her pet.
Though Sonja looks overdressed compared to previous incarnations, her costume is still impractical for sword fighting. She also looks like she’s wearing a ton of makeup or has been airbrushed, whereas before she had a much more earthy beauty. Still, the close-up of her green eye. . . wow. This is drawn a little more flamboyantly than most, but no big deal.
She also doesn’t take kindly to all her exes being mentioned. “Not the time for comedy. Got it. Sorry, I do that.” Another great sequence: “Death before failing King—” “Oh shut up.” Glad there’s plenty of humor here to lighten up what is at heart a pretty depressing story. And it’s great that no one comments on the fact she’s bisexual. Ho-hum.
The two most important lines, describing her perfectly: “I am not a queen, I am not a goddess. . . I am Sonja!” And “She bettered the people she came across.”
There’s 15 pages of extras at the end, like covers.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit: Who Killed The Spirit?
No need to describe a plot when it’s right there in the title, huh?
After a poignant intro by the author, the story not only doesn’t launch into the plot, but takes all of the first issue just on background and having the two detectives decide they want to solve the mystery. I would imagine some people who bought this first issue gave up on it right here.
But since this is an omnibus, I kept going. In fact, while most books are five or six issues, this one was at least double if not triple the usual length.
The first villain they look at. . . wow, hope he’s done. With a pet vulture and ridiculous loquaciousness, he made the whole chapter a downer. Thankfully it got better, especially when the hero is saved from being eaten by a shark and the author remembers to go back and explain how he got there.
Nazis show up. “I hate these guys!” Though it did seem odd that he was racist while having a black daughter he claimed to love so much. Almost as bad is the blonde, who seems more whiny trouble than she’s worth. There’s a long poem on how Spice came into power. And with the main bad guy going free, you know there’s gonna be a sequel.
I don’t know anything about art, but it felt like these drawings were more three-dimensional than most. At some points it became more. . . cartoonish, for lack of a better word. Some surprisingly bright colors. I’d say kudos for the Nighthawks tribute if I hadn’t seen it so often nowadays.
About 20 pages of extras, mostly early character drawings and scene sketches.

Sun Dragon’s Song #1
In a story that seems to be set in ancient China, a boy who needs a crutch to get around is bullied while feeding the dragons. All he wants is to be a dragonrider. When his parents, both dragonriders, come home from the war, he gets to go home with them. Dad’s a pacifist, who would rather let a young thief go than throw her into prison, while mom wants to do the opposite. At the end of this first of four issues, he’s accepted as a dragonrider trainee.
Since this is just ¼ of the story, there’s not much to go on. I don’t mean it artistically when I say this is painted in broad strokes, no doubt so kids can understand it. I do like the direction it’s going in, and look forward to the next one.
The artwork is “sketchy”; looks like someone simply colored the first drafts.

Bread and Butter #1
Amid pencil sketches of San Francisco landmarks Liana works in the cafeteria of a museum, disillusioned by her job when she wants to be designing album covers. But once she gets inspired. . . she falls asleep.
With only 24 pages, there’s not a lot here. It’s more of an intro to the main story, which will have to wait for the next issue.
There’s a drawing of a clock in a bar that says “No tick since April 18, 1906,” which I assume is the day of the great earthquake. It’s a bit surreal, but I like it. There’s a lot of small touches to evoke the quirkiness of the city. The problem is there’s too much bitterness throughout, making the optimism at the end ring false.



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