The biggest question going into Dynamite and Top Cow’s new crossover series Witchblade/Red Sonja, which brings modern day cop Sara Pezzini together with barbarian Red Sonja is: does the title pass the Bechdel Test? Do the bearer of the Witchblade, and the least clothed warrior of all time actually talk to each other, and not about men? Happily, the answer is yes... Though they do fight a big old snake monster, so take that as you will.
Okay, glibness aside (for probably half a sentence), whatever has been done with the characters over the years, I think we can all accept that both Witchblade and Red Sonja started off as cheesecake, pure and simple. Over time, writers like Ron Marz (Witchblade), and Brian Reed and Mike Oeming (Red Sonja) have transcended the origins of each title, and made the characters something special and unique. There’s a problem, though, and that’s at the end of the day, the Witchblade still rips all of Pezzini’s clothes off when she puts it on, and Red Sonja is dressed in what could generously be called two bicycle chains.
You can’t ignore those aspects of characters, even with a large amount of growth between them. And I don’t envy a writer then, who has to tackle a crossover between the two. You’ve got the fans waiting anxiously by to see if the creative team will fail the aforementioned Bechdel Test, ready to pounce and call this comic the biggest piece of trash of all time; and then you’ve got the fans who secretly want the villain in this series to be a big ol’ swimming pool full of mud.
Lucky for both parties, there’s something for everyone in this first issue: you’ve got the naked ladies for the gawkers, and enough subtext for the defamers... Plunging knives deep into virgins, and chopping the head off a serpent who has the ability to disappear into pools of soft redness in the floor isn’t exactly what you’d call subtle. But there’s also a mystery spanning several centuries here, as Sonja and Pezzini seem to be handling linked cases involving demons, ogres, as well as virgin sacrifice and fallen angels, and it will be fun to see how the two work together - if they do.
I’ll hold back from major spoilers here, but suffice to say what’s holding me back from giving this an unequivocal recommendation is that there’s a lot of killing time in this issue, and we only start to really get to the main conflict on the last page. Hopefully it will get going in issue two, but writer Doug Wagner could probably have sacrificed long pages of Sonja walking through the snow - even if they are ably illustrated by Ale Garza - for a little more story.
Look, you probably know whether you’re the target audience for this book by now. This isn’t something that’s going to sell you on either Witchblade, or Red Sonja: their own titles do that well enough. But if you’re looking for sexy warrior women kicking butt and choppin’ monsters, you could probably do a lot worse than Witchblade/Red Sonja #1. Heck, I’ve read a lot worse. This week. I realize this isn’t a stunning endorsement for the book, but like I said, this is for fans, both of the characters, and casual fantasy fans as well. There’s a good chance the story will heat up in issue two, but until then, you’ll have to make due with a few pages of solid character work, art, and a few pages you probably shouldn’t read on the subway.
Witchblade/Red Sonja #1 hits comic book shops on February 22, 2012 from Dynamite Comics and Top Cow.