Saturday, 30 October 2010

Review - Spider-Man / Red Sonja TPB

This book collects the five issue ‘Spider-Man / Red Sonja’ mini-series from 2007 / 2008, written by Michael Avon Oeming – better known as an artist – and drawn by Mel Rubi – better known as a painter and decorator (Note: I made that bit up). The story here is very similar to the story in Marvel Team-Up #79, by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, in which Spider-Man and Red Sonja team up to battle Kulan Gath in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. I know this because Marvel Team-Up was one of my favourite Marvel comics as a kid and John Byrne was my favourite artist. I also know this because Marvel Team-Up #79 is reprinted in this book after Spider-Man / Red Sonja #5 – the first time it has ever been reprinted, apparently – and it is not only very similar, it is also better and makes a bit more sense. At the very least, MTU #79 didn’t have Venom in it, which is one big plus point in its favour.

In MTU #79, a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art tries an old necklace that calls to him and he is transformed into Kulan Gath (who I guess must be some old Red Sonja villain – I’m not sure because the only Red Sonja comics I have ever read have been old issues of Conan and I don’t think he was in any of those). Without leaving the museum, Gath then seeks to take over the world but is thwarted by Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson, who is transformed into Red Sonja by an old sword which calls to her. It’s not a great comic by any means, and there is little in the way of explanation, but it’s a perfectly good Bronze Age Marvel comic which has the benefit of containing art by John Byrne, then at the peak of his powers, inked by his X-Men cohort Terry Austin.

In Spider-Man / Red Sonja, a crooked politician tries on the same necklace during a visit to the same museum – which is odd because Spider-Man threw the necklace into the sea at the end of MTU #79, but I suppose some idiot could have found it and brought it back to the museum – and is also transformed into Kulan Gath. An expanding section of New York is also transformed into something resembling a set from the Lord of the Rings, with some of its inhabitants transformed into ogres, etc., and the rest just transformed into peasants who speak in Olde English.

This time, that genius Kulan Gath actually calls Mary Jane to the sword that transforms her (again) into Red Sonja, his logic being that he can pit Spider-Man and Sonja against each other, thus leaving him free to complete his plans for world domination, which seems like a flawed plan if ever there was one. From here, Spider-Man and Red Sonja briefly battle each other before teaming up to battle some of Spider-Man’s slightly transformed foes (Hobgoblin, the Lizard, Vermin, the Scorpion, and Venom), before battling Kulan Gath, who steals Venom’s costume and becomes Kulan Venom (yes, this comic really is that bad). The comic then ends in much the same way as the superior MTU #79.

Other than ‘Kulan Venom’, which was an unforgivably shit idea, and the idiocy of Kulan Gath bringing Red Sonja into the fray, there were a couple more things that really pissed me off about this largely forgettable series. Firstly, I didn’t understand why Spider-Man wasn’t transformed into an ogre or some Olde English-speaking peasant, with no memory of who he really was, like everyone else in New York. Secondly, I didn’t understand why everyone was speaking Olde English when they were supposed to have been transformed into characters from the Hyborian age. MTU #79 was probably hacked out by Chris Claremont in his lunch break, in between writing issues of the X-Men, Iron Fist, and whatever else he was writing at the time, but even then it occurred to him that Spider-Man and Red Sonja might not be able to speak the same language. In MTU #79, Spider-Man and Red Sonja are unable to understand each other. Here, in Spider-Man / Red Sonja, everyone speaks the same language, it’s just that some say ‘ye’, ‘thee’, and ‘thy’ a lot, which doesn’t make any sense at all.

This was very lazily written and I’m really not sure what I thought of Mel Rubi’s art. Some pages were good but a lot weren’t, although I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I didn’t like. I initially thought that it might be the fact that the art appears to have been shot directly from the pencils, which meant that the strong colours overpowered the art a bit, but the Michael Turner covers reprinted inside also appear to have been shot straight from pencils and I quite like them, so maybe it’s just not my sort of thing?

I’m not sure why I bought this really. I think it was just because I was bored and I saw it cheap on eBay. I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but I seem to remember paying something like £2.99 including postage. Whatever I paid, it must have been cheap because I didn’t complain when it turned up with the front cover folded in half. In retrospect, though, I kind of wish I had complained.

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